Senators Joe Paskvan, Dennis Egan, and Gary Stevens during the closeout hearing of the Senate Finance DEED Subcommittee, March 20, 2012
This blog contains highlights from the Alaska Education Update. The update is issued daily during session and contains detailed summaries of education issues under consideration by the Alaska State Legislature. If there is a hearing on a Monday, a report will, with few exceptions, be released by Tuesday morning. There is also a weekly edition of the update. During interim, reports are issued only when there has been action. Interim action may include hearings, bill signings, the release of the Governor's proposed budget for the next fiscal year, and other items that may be of interest to the education community.

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Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Strong Support in Senate Education for SB 224, But Ambivalence About the Name

The Senate Education Committee heard and held SB 224. Chairman Meyer said the committee would move the bill either Friday or Monday.  Sen. Stevens said he has come to terms with the importance of the bill. They need to move the bill along and figure out the bigger issue of how to pay for the program.  Chairman Meyer said the scholarship program will be a great program, and something he will be proud of voting for and supporting.

At a previous hearing, Legislative Legal Services staff recommended that.....
the programmatic language be removed from the bill and placed in a letter of intent. Sen. Davis asked if anyone knows whether the house feels strongly about keeping the programmatic language in the bill. Chairman Meyer said he has not talked to Rep. Seaton, but he imagines once the house hears about the reservations that Legal Services has about keeping those in the bill, they may favor a letter of intent.

Committee staff said that the name Alaska Student Performance Scholarship has been suggested for the program. Sen. Stevens said they owe the governor a debt for bringing this issue forward, but to name it the governor’s scholarship in perpetuity is not a good reflection of the legislation. Sen. Huggins agreed. Chairman Meyer agreed that it is the state’s program, not the governor’s or the legislature’s program. Sen. Davis noted that a lot of people are already using the name GPS.

Sen. Stevens still wanted to change the name. Sen. Davis said she doesn’t have a strong objection to it, but she also likes GPS. Sen. Olson agreed that he could live with either name as well. The good thing about naming it GPS is that the governor’s name is on it, and one of the advantages is that it might have more support from the governor because of that. Sen. Stevens said the easy part is naming the bill. The hard part will be getting the funding. He would like to see $400 million put aside, but he doesn’t think that is going to happen.

Sen. Davis said she wants 2010 graduates included in SB 224, but have them begin receiving scholarships at the same time as the class of 2011. Commissioner LeDoux said there is the concern of fairness. You will have a number of people who will say it’s not fair, because they didn’t know they might qualify, so they didn’t take the proper classes. The people who will qualify will be the people who were going to go to college anyway. The only way to make it fair, would be to look at the class of 2010’s first year of college and use that as part of the qualifying criteria.

Sen. Davis asked what they would need to do to put that in SB 224. She doesn’t think the legislature will leave Juneau without passing scholarship legislation. Sen. Huggins said he agrees with Sen. Davis that they should add the class of 2010. Kids should not be punished for meeting our low standards. This opportunity should be available for students as soon as possible. Sen. Stevens asked what else in the bill might need to be changed. Commissioner LeDoux said there are a number of minor things in the bill that should be looked at in order to add the class of 2010, but the department could do that.

Sen. Olson asked if they fund the program with an endowment, how will they fund the first year of the program before the endowment has time to make any money. Commissioner LeDoux said if this is to work, they cannot fund any students until the fall of 2011. He is concerned that there are many students from the class of 2010 who will not have prepared properly to qualify for the scholarship. In addition, it will cost more money to include that class.

Sen. Huggins said it is his intent to address shortage disciplines when SB 224 is heard in the Senate Finance Committee.

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