Between the House and Senate Education Committees, there were only four bills discussed–2 in the House, 2 in the Senate. In the Senate, Senator Osmond and several parents of dyslexic students explained the dire need for his bill, Interventions for Reading Difficulties Pilot Program, SB117. The bill proposes a 3 year pilot program wherein schools would apply for a grant from USOE. USOE would then award up to $30K for up to 5 schools per LEA, up to 5 LEAs. The money would be used for professional development for teachers, teaching them how to recognize and intervene in children with dyslexia, evidence based curriculum and training materials, and $100K set aside for USOE to hire a third party to research and track the effectiveness and impact of the program. The bill passed unanimously.
Also heard in the Senate Education Committee was Rep. Draxler’s HB 33, American Indian Native Alaskan Amendments. The discussion can be summed up by Rep. Draxler’s comment, “If this achievement gap existed in our children and grandchildren, we would have sprung into action several years ago but our American Indian and native Alaskan children haven’t gotten this kind of attention,” to which Senator Duakis replied, “You’re doing God’s work here.” The bill passed unanimously.
The real discussion of the day took place in the House Education Committee. To remediate or not to remediate… After Rep. Froerer’s Maintenance of Student Records bill passed without discussion, Rep. Last introduced HB118, Public Education Human Resources Management Act Revisions, making changes to the landmark SB64 bill from 2012 which provides that educators must first have an opportunity to remediate poor performance before they are terminated. The problem as Lyle Cox, HR Director in Washington County, explained is that poor performance is often so closely tied to conduct–which does not require remediation, or a “plan of assistance” before termination–that schools can’t discipline for conduct without having to put into place a resource-intensive plan of assistance. The bill as written provides that where an educator exhibits behavior that is both conduct and performance related, the school may discipline without first establishing a plan of assistance. Lisa Nentl-Bloom, with the UEA, explained that the UEA is concerned that the bill undermines the intent and purpose of SB64 and would allow schools to by-pass the plans of assistance in every instance.
An amendment to the bill was introduced minutes before the meeting began, and Rep. Last asked that the bill be held until the parties (LEAs and UEA) could review the amendment and come to a consensus in support of the bill. And so it was held.