Saturday, May 23, 2015

Something For Alaska And US Majority Leaders To Think About

 This comes from the movie Confucius. (孔子 (Kong Zi) Director: Mei Hu).

Confucius consents to an audience with the royal consort of Wei against the wishes of his disciples.  She has a reputation as a beautiful woman with a sketchy past and she clearly is intent on seducing the great scholar.

She starts off by asking about the Book of Odes, and the love poetry in it.

Screen shot from Confucius. (孔子 (Kong Zi) Director: Mei Hu)
He politely rejects her request to become his student and to meet again.  She then asks about his theories of government. 

Screen shots from Confucius. (孔子 (Kong Zi) Director: Mei Hu)

Screen shots from Confucius. (孔子 (Kong Zi) Director: Mei Hu)

Screen shots from Confucius. (孔子 (Kong Zi) Director: Mei Hu)

While there is much about Confucian teaching that is problematic today - particularly his rigid hierarchical power structure and his low regard for women - there is also much of use to our political leaders today.

I'd note that Thomas Jefferson, one of the inspirations of the Tea Party,  was something of a China scholar.  From a scholarly paper "Thomas Jefferson's Incorporating Positive Elements From Chinese Civilization" by Dave Wan.
(Note that the poem Jefferson clips out in the passage below, is the one referred to by the Royal Consort of Wei in the film - "The Book of Odes."  The poem is a tribute to the Prince of Wei - several hundred years prior to Confucius.)
"Founding Inspiration from the Confucius’ Classics

       In the nineteenth century intellectuals in the United States often enjoyed creating personal scrapbooks, in which they would cut out their “favorite newspaper articles and poems” and past “them onto the backs of old letters to create a sort of personal literary anthology.”  None of us will feel surprised to know that Thomas Jefferson, “an Enlightenment intellectual,” created a scrapbook in his own way. Some time from 1801-1809 Jefferson included in the section of his scrapbook titled Poems of the Nations an ancient Chinese poem from The Book of Odes. His love of the poem provides us with a window through which we can look into his efforts to learn from Chinese culture. What he wanted to learn from the poem?

       Below is Jefferson’s clipping of the poem:

                                           A Very Ancient Chinese Ode
Translated by John Collegins seq
Quoted in the To Hio of Confuciues
(….from a manuscript presented in the Bodlein Library )

SEE! how the silvery river glides,
And leaves' the fields bespangled sides !
Hear how the whispering breeze proceeds!
Harmonious through the verdant reeds!
Observe our prince thus lovely shine!
In him the meek-ey'd virtues join!
Just as a patient carver will, Hard ivory model by his skill,
So his example has impress'd Benevolence in every b[re]ast;
Nice hands to the rich gems, behold,
Impart the gloss of burnish'd gold:
Thus he, in manners, goodly great,
Refines the people of his state. True lenity,
how heavenly fair !
We see it while it threatens,—spare!
What beauties in its open face!
In its deportment—what a grace!
Observe our prince thus lovely shine!
In him the meek-ey'd virtues join!
His mern'ry of eternal prime,
Like truth, defies the power of time!

       The poem pays tribute to Prince Wei from the State of Wei, who was loved, respected and remembered by the people of his state. Confucius (551-479 BC) highly praised Prince Wei, described in the poem, when he quoted this poem in his famous book, The Great Learning, to provide a standard to inspire other princes and leaders of various states to follow. Confucius said,

In the Book of Ode, ‘Ah! The former kings are not forgotten’ Future princes deem worthy what they deemed worthy, and love what they loved. The common people delighted in what they delighted them, and are benefited by their beneficial arrangements. It is on this account that the former kings, after they have quitted the world, are not forgotten."

Important themes that we should remember from Confucius is his emphasis on ethics, on education, on harmony and treating people with respect and taking care of the poor and less fortunate. 

Just something to think about on a cloudy Saturday.

I don't particularly recommend this film as a film.  But as an easy (and visually beautiful) overview of the life of Confucius it will do.   It tends to give us a series of vignettes of his life,  with very little character development.   The two actors in these screenshots are (from Wikipedia):
Zhou Xun was in Dai Sijie's Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress (2002) a film very much worth seeing.  She was also in Cloud Atlas. 

Friday, May 22, 2015

"TO DUNLEAVY" (v) "When a situation unexpectedly comes along giving you the power to help another in need, you instead try to extract some gain for yourself while harming the other."

 EXAMPLE:  "He dunleavied HB 44." As in when you find yourself as the chair of a committee in a special session with just one bill with strong bi-partisan support, and instead of quickly passing the bill, you water down its key provisions, and then add a lot of unrelated amendments that you had tried to pass in the regular session, but couldn't.

This is not how I intended to begin this post, but it seems to encapsulate a lot of analysis in a few words.  Below is the whole post which will show how I got to this point.  

I’ve learned while blogging over the years that it’s easy to form opinions about people I’ve never met and that when I meet them, I'm forced to deal with their complexities, not the cartoon image I originally formed.  I put up a post the other day entitled Sen. Dunleavy Plays Politics With Bill To Protect Kids From Sexual Predators.  I even suggested that if he didn't understand how significant his changes to HB 44 were, he was ignorant and if he did understand, he was venal.  Those are pretty harsh charges.  Not the kind of thing I usually write.

So I went to Wednesday’s hearing to see Dunleavy in person.  I wanted to  get a better sense of Dunleavy and reassess my judgment.

The title and poster are the result of realizing that 'venal' was not the right word, but having trouble finding the perfect word.  I couldn't; so I coined one.  I would add that I found Dunleavy to be strongly committed to a set of values and I think he's sincere about them and is willing to fight to promote them.  He appears to be one of those folks who is so certain that he's right, that it's easy for them to disregard those who disagree with him.  However, his manner was respectful and, for the most part, restrained.  He did get passionate at the end about the importance of protecting parental rights in a time when government is so invasive in people's lives.  Making decisions is much easier for such people, because they don't appear to doubt their correctness.  While he listened to opposing arguments, he easily dismissed them all, and there were no changes to the bill before it was passed. I'd note that this characteristic crosses party lines, but it comes easier with those used to having the power.  I know that a lot of other legislators probably fit the Dunleavy definition I've written.  Dunleavy just happens to be the person  I was trying to understand that led to this definition.  

So, to start from some arbitrary beginning . . .

What I'd like to do here is evaluate my own charge (and others') that Dunleavy was "playing politics" as well as to evaluate whether my either/or characterization was fair.  (Spoiler:  it wasn't.) 

What Does "Playing Politics" Mean?  
Cambridge Dictionary:  to use a situation or the relationships between people for your own advantage
The Free Dictionary: 
1. Lit. to negotiate politically.
2. to allow politics to dominate in matters where principle should prevail.
Next, I'll go through the arguments against the committee substitute for HB 44 and Dunleavy's responses.  Then I'll give an overview of the changes to HB 44.

I'll try to come to conclusions on the pro and con arguments and, finally, whether this is an example of  'playing politics.'  [I tried to cleanly separate out the analysis in its own sections, but as you'll see, some has slipped in earlier as well.]  So hang in there, or skip down to the sections that most interest you.  Going through this closely has raised a lot of issues for me that weren't originally apparent.

The Reasons People Argued Against The Changes To HB 44 (Erin's Law)

  1. The Changes Gut The Bill -  Making parents sign permission forms before a child can be in the program  ('opting in'), instead of requiring parents to object if they don't want the child in ('opting out') means fewer kids will be exposed to this critical information. Likewise, not requiring school districts to adopt this material will reduce the number of kids who get this information.

    Further, the original bill called for age appropriate material for all kids from kindergarten through 12th grade.  The amended version limits it to 7th-12th grade.   50% or more of the target audience is cut out.   People argued that by 7th grade it is too late. Kids are molested much earlier than that and need the training early.
  2. Adding amendments to a clean HB44, that the governor specifically mentioned for passage in the special session, raises a number of problems:
    1. Jeopardizes passage of the bill.   HB 44 was a very focused and clear three page bill which passed the house this year 34-6 and the senate last year unanimously (without the teen dating violence part).  The new version is  a mashed together nine page bill with several controversial sections that have not had careful discussion or had public testimony and could get HB 44 stalled or killed, especially under the bizarre circumstances the legislature is now in. 
    2. Raises constitutional problems:  It's questionable whether adding the new language will be constitutional.
    3. Tacks on Dunleavy's pet issues.  The amendments came from bills that Dunleavy introduced or supported  but couldn't get through during the regular session.

Dunleavy's Responses:  [I was hoping the audio of Wednesday's hearing would be up  so I could pull out exact words. It wasn't up yesterday when I wrote most of this and I still don't see it today.]
  1. Changing the program to "opt in" for parents and giving school districts the choice to not use it is important because parental rights are being eroded by schools and the government.  Parents need the power to control what their kids learn at school.  Sen. Giessel added at one point, that parental rights don't come from government, but from God.
  2. (Addressing Senator McGuire directly) There is nothing wrong with amending bills, it's how the legislative process works.  You amended the original Erin's Law to add in training on teen dating violence awareness.  I didn't do anything different.  And this bill was delayed in the regular session while you were out of town because of a family emergency.  
    1. All the added sections were important and related to education.  They strengthen parental rights and clear up other issues.  The last part, getting rid of the requirement for schools to offer ACT, SAT, or KeyWorks tests, saves money.  
    2. Here's the legal opinion.  Dunleavy had staffer Sheila Peterson relate a message from Leg Legal on this.   She basically said, if a judge were to rule narrowly, there would be problems.  If broadly interpreted, it would be ok.   I got a copy of the memo on Wednesday, (but I can't find it online for you with the other documents).  I would say Peterson's interpretation was not inaccurate, but rosier than what was written. 

      The memo says in part:
      "In the Governor's proclamation declaring a special session, the subject is limited to consideration of:[T]he passage of bills on the following subjects:
      1.  House Bill 44 - Sexual Abuse/Sexual Assault Prevention Programs, previously under consideration in the Senate and the House . . . ."

      "If the subject is construed narrowly, many of the provisions of the committee substitute you requested would fall outside of the subject, as they are not related to sexual abuse or sexual assault awareness programs. . .

      "If, on the other hand, the scope of the subject is interpreted in accordance with legislative rules regarding germaneness and the constitutional single subject rule, it is likely permissible to include at least some of the provisions you have asked to add to CSHB 44(FIN) through the committee substitute."

      It goes on to say that if it were all passed and challenged in court, it's not clear if the court would use the broader regular session test of germaneness or a narrower one relating to the Governor's proclamation for the special session.  But note, the opinion says that even with a broad interpretation  "at least some of the provisions" would stand, implying that others wouldn't.  The charge against the substituted bill was that it raised constitutional questions.  This opinion verifies that. At best for Dunleavy, it says "you might have a chance that some provisions would survive."

      3.  Dunleavy agreed the other material came from bills he and others had proposed.  He saw nothing wrong with this.  Legally, he's right.  But there was very little or no discussion about the various aspects of the bill except for the idea of strengthening parental rights and eliminating the college and work prep testing,  which only have been in existence for one year.  This would, he said, save money in the bad budget year. (I know a road through the university he could cut which would save way more money if that's his goal.)  He added that such amendments were just part of the legislative process. 

      His conclusion was that his amendments made this an excellent bill.  His defense was more opinion and rhetoric than logic and fact. 

      While people have graphically presented the harm caused by sexual abuse, Alaska statistics, and how cutting provisions of the bill will expose kids to abuse and even death, there was no evidence presented that showed what harm would be caused to parents and kids if the bill had been left as it was.  Dunleavy only invoked general concerns about the erosion of parental rights.  

What Was Added?

The new sections includes a slew of topics.  I've tried to group them for simplicity here.  S1 refers to Section 1, etc.  I've put the whole list of sections provided by Leg Legal in a box on the bottom so you can see for yourself. 

Brief overview of issues added to the bill.  (S16 is the amended version of the original HB 44)
Parental Permission :
S2- gives parents permission to withdraw their kids from any school activities involving human reproduction and sexual matters or divulging of personal or family family affairs
S6, S7 requires parental permission for all school surveys, info on access to survey info

Challenging Courses For Credit:
S3, S4 limits grades and assessment procedures for challenging courses for credit

Prohibits Contracting With Abortion Providers
S5, S17 (The prohibition covers 'organizations that contract with schools' as well as school districts)

Rules For Training Of School Employees
S8, S9, S10, S11, S12, S13, S19, S20

Physical Exams for Students and Teachers
S14, S15

Allows Districts To Adopt Sexual Abuse And Teen Dating Violence Awareness Training (This is the original HB 44, but amended as explained above)

Allows For Existing Department Records To Be Used For Background Checks

Repeals Requirements For College And Career Preparedness Testing

The original bill, you can see, is now only one of 23 different sections!


Complaints about the changes and Dunleavy's responses

1.  Was the bill 'gutted'?

Clearly, fewer children will be exposed to this training than before because:
1.  Parents must give permission before a student can take the program.  Getting prior permission is more difficult than requiring parents to take steps to opt their children out.
2.  Schools are no longer required to implement this program.  Again,  requiring all schools to use the program is likely to cover more kids.
3.  Exempting K-6 grade kids cuts out half the target audience and means kids who are most vulnerable and least prepared to deal with sexual abuse will not get the training.
I learned long ago, as a teacher, that if I asked, "Does anyone have a question?" I got the same number of raised hands as I did when I asked, "Who understands this?"  Taking action is more work than not taking action, and fewer kids will get into these classes if parents have to sign a permission slip than if they have to sign a 'no permission' slip.

I would note that one of the documents available online includes a list of school districts that already have training.  It includes the biggest school districts - Anchorage, Mat-Su, Fairbanks, Juneau - and a number of smaller districts.  So lots of students are already getting this training in some form.  However, the list only says whether there is sexual abuse awareness training and teen dating violence training.  It doesn't say what grade levels get the training or any other details.

I do understand how Dunleavy can convince himself that the changes are minor, and because so many districts already offer some training, he's not totally wrong.  But half the kids (K-6) were cut out of the bill!  We simply disagree on the significance of the threat to parental rights compared to the threat to children's safety.  We have dire statistics that show Alaska is the worst state in the nation when it comes to child sexual abuse, domestic violence, and general violence against women. We don't have evidence that Alaskan parents' rights are less than in other states and that this causes them irreparable harm as we know that abuse causes.  Suppose the changes mean that 30 kids per year or per month, will get abused because of the changes in the bill.  Because their schools don't offer the program or their parents don't sign the permission slip, or they're in K-6, they won't get training  and thus won't be able to recognize an abuser and won't be empowered to protect themselves or to report it right away.   Given our numbers, that's a real possibility, and to me, it's a big deal.  I don't see the compensating benefits in the changes that make up for the harm to those kids who will be abused because they didn't get the  this education.  No one identified any specific harm that would be caused to parents or their kids if the bill would have been passed as it was, without changes. 

To me the amendments clearly weaken this bill.  The changes are not minor. 

2.  Were the bill's chances of success weakened?

2-1.  Controversial and unvetted issues.  Two new sections (S5 and S17) appear to be aimed at one organization - Planned Parenthood.   Dunleavy is strongly anti-abortion and believes his religiously based views trump my views and others' views.  Dunleavey's views are the minority opinion in Alaska and the United States, but he believes he knows better than the rest of us.  Anchorage's recent mayoral election when a strongly pro-choice candidate soundly beat a strongly anti-choice candidate, emphasizes this.  Inserting the anti-abortion language in this bill poisons it and Planned Parenthood is not shy about going to court. These are not uncontroversial amendments.

S2 gives parents permission to withdraw their kids from any school activities involving human reproduction and sexual matters or divulging of personal or family family affairs.  I think there ought to be a lot of public discussion to clarify exactly what that means.  Would it prevent a teacher or school nurse from asking a child about bruises and how they got them?  Would it prevent a teacher from asking a student why he was falling asleep in class every day or is suddenly very quiet and non-responsive?  While I can think of a lot of things that teachers should probably not be asking about one's family, I also think the language is so broad there could be conflicts here with mandatory responders' ability to determine whether a child is being abused or neglected at home.  But there was no discussion on this at the hearing whatsoever.

I understand the concern for parental rights.  When my kids were in school, my wife and I were very active in monitoring our kids' education.  We spoke up when we disagreed and advocated for improvements.  I also understand that a lot of parents do not have the knowledge and experience or professional training to be able to effectively advocate for their kids.  I think having parent advocates  available would be very helpful for many parents.  But when we speak of parents' rights, we have to recognize that there are parents who are dysfunctional and fail to support and protect their kids.

S21 allows people applying for work to use the background check that is already on record with the department.  I can see the benefit of not having to go through a whole new background check.  But what happens when there are recent violations that didn't exist when the first background check was made?  I don't know if this is a serious issue, but there was no discussion on it at all.  It's one more thing in this bill that could give a little more opportunity for abusers, and prevent passage of the bill. 

The real irony of all this is that it's parents and other close relatives who do most of the sexual abuse of kids.  Protecting the ability of abusive parents to prevent those kids from getting sexual abuse awareness education so they can protect themselves from their parents and other relatives is inherently, though not intentionally, imbedded in the  parents' rights that Dunleavy is pushing.  Dunleavy took umbrage that people insinuated  that he was complicit in hurting kids by his amendments.  Good people can take principled actions that cause harm.  And I'm sure George W. Bush takes umbrage in the charge that invading Iraq resulted in greater instability and death for Iraqis and destabilized the region.  Those sections added to this bill that strengthen parents' rights, also take power away from abused kids.   It's the abusive parents who will be most interested in keeping their kids out of these classes. 

The need for lengthy discussion to clarify the legality and implications of these and other sections that were added into the bill, do raise legitimate concern about the bill's passage.

Sen. Dunleavy's responses were aimed at equating these amendments to Sen. McGuire's amendment that added teen dating violence to the bill during the regular session.  He changed the debate from whether the amendments were controversial and germane, to whether it was ok, in general, to make amendments.  He didn't really defend his position other than to say the amendments made the bill stronger, which, in my analysis, is definitely not the case. 

2-3.  Constitutionality -  The legal opinion said it would depend on a judge's interpretation  and the outcome could not be predicted.  And even the broadest interpretation would only protect some of the new sections.  In other words, the attorney couldn't say that the bill would survive a court challenge.  The opinion said that some of the sections might survive.  I don't see how anyone can logically argue that opinion doesn't support the critics' charge that the changes raise constitutional issues.   

2-4  Just taking an opportunity to get his own pet issues passed - Some of the amendments come from SB 89, a bill on Parental Rights that Dunleavy sponsored and two of the three other education committee members who voted for this bill -  Giessel and Huggins -  co-sponsored.  Adding these measures onto HB 44 clearly gives Dunleavy (and the other committee members) an unexpected shot at something they already had lost, but the amendments in no way help the original HB 44 get passed.  One could argue that they, along with the changes to HB 44 itself, make it harder. The point isn't that it's bad to add amendments in general, but that these amendments don't strengthen the bill and hurt its chances of passage.

I'm not making judgments on the merit of the changes to HB 44, but rather evaluating them against the challenges of the critics of the changes and the defense of the changes.   The intent of my comments is not to challenge the new provisions, but merely evaluate whether they strengthen or weaken the goal of Erin's Law.  There's no question, that a 'sure pass' by the senate has been made questionable.  That a pass of the revised bill would result in a much less effective Erin's Law, and one that has a questionable chance of surviving a legal challenge on constitutional grounds.

"Playing politics" or not?

So, this gets us to whether Dunleavy was playing politics or not.   Let's retrieve the definitions:
Cambridge Dictionary:  to use a situation or the relationships between people for your own advantage
The Free Dictionary: 
1. Lit. to negotiate politically.
2. to allow politics to dominate in matters where principle should prevail.
Using the Cambridge definition, there's no doubt.  He had the choice to leave HB 44 as it was and send it for speedy passage.  Instead, he made changes that weakened the bill (we can debate how much it weakened the bill, but there's no question that it did)  and added in language from a bill he had sponsored but hadn't gotten passed, which weakens the chances of the bill's passage.  (I haven't talked about the details of what happens next, but even if the bill passes the Senate, which it likely will, it has to be reconciled with the original House version.  Since the House sponsor is also the Speaker of the House, there's a good chance that won't happen.  But if it does, there's the question of whether the Governor will sign it or veto it. Erin Merryn, the woman who is the namesake of this sort of legislation and has gotten it passed in 23 states has said she does not support the amended bill. )

Dunleavy took an opportunity to negotiate something he wanted onto a stand alone bill that had a strong chance to pass and the changes now put the bill in jeopardy.    I'd say that fits the first two definitions quite neatly.

I would allow that Dunleavy might reasonably argue whether the facts fit with the second Free Dictionary definition.  He probably would argue that he was very much working on principle.  He strongly articulated his belief in strengthening parental rights.  But I would counter argue that those who have fought to pass Erin's Law are also doing it on principle, and that if most people had to choose between sacrificing protection from abuse for kids,  or protecting parents' rights, the kids would win.  It has been, after all, patriarchal rights and the idea of children (and wives) as chattel, that have allowed for all kinds of child abuse for centuries.  It's not an either/or proposition, it's not easy to balance.  But when kids get abused, it gets much easier to decide, but then it's too late.  And in a democracy, the principle of fair process has got to be one of the most important for a legislator.  Otherwise, legislators can simply take advantage of their positions of power to forward their own interests.  Which is not to suggest he did anything that isn't perfectly legal, but he has watered down a pretty sure winner and further burdened it with marginally related amendments.

And when I originally put up the post about Dunleavy playing politics, and even when I started this post, I wasn't aware that Dunleavy was considering running for the US Senate seat against Lisa Murkowski and didn't even consider how this debate and attention might help him with the most conservative side of the Republican party.   I suspect that he would have made these amendments anyway, but it adds ammunition to those who claim he's playing politics here. 

Is Ignorant or Venal a valid claim?

Venal means, according to the Oxford dictionary:
"Showing or motivated by susceptibility to bribery"
I see no evidence of anything like bribery here and I was totally wrong to use this word (and I have corrected it in the original post and apologized to Dunleavy.)  It was a bad choice of words. 

But I do think that Dunleavy's defense of his position was not entirely straightforward.  He had to know that his amendments to HB 44 watered it down and that his amendments were of a very different type than McGuire's.  Yet he never acknowledged this.  McGuire's amendments were directly relevant to the original bill and strengthened it.  Dunleavy's are marginally relevant, weaken the bill, and advance his agenda to the detriment of Erin's law.  He's right that this is part of the legislative process, and I'm sure that's part of  the reason that politicians are held in such low esteem.    

But if venal is the wrong word, what's the right one?  I've been unsuccessful finding the perfect word.  For example,  'crafty' which the Oxford dictionary defines as:
"Clever at achieving one’s aims by indirect or deceitful methods"
has some of the elements, but isn't quite right.

I don't know if  Dunleavy was merely indirect or actually deceitful.  I'm not sure he's even being clever or that he will achieve his ends. I don't know for sure what his ends are.  What I really need is a new word.

So I'm coining a definition for "TO  DUNLEAVY"   which I'll define as:
"When a situation unexpectedly comes along giving you the power to help  another in need, you  instead try to extract some gain for yourself while harming the other."  
EXAMPLE:  "He dunleavied HB 44."   As in when you unexpectedly find yourself as the chair of a committee in a special session with just one bill with strong bi-partisan support, and instead of quickly passing the bill, you water down its key provisions, and then add a lot of unrelated other amendments that you had tried to pass in the regular session, but couldn't.

From Legislative Affairs Legal Services - Sectional Summary of SCS CSHB 44
Section 2.  Requires local school boards to adopt policies allowing parents to withdraw their children from any activity, class, program, or standards-based assessment required by the state to which the parent objects.
Section 3.  Limits AS 14.03.073, which allows students to challenge courses for credit, to apply only to students in grades nine through 12.
Section 4.  Clarifies that school districts do not have to establish assessment tools for all courses offered in grades nine through 12 for purposes of challenging a course.
Section 5.  Prohibits school districts and educational services organizations that contract with school districts from contracting with abortion services providers.
Section 6.  Prohibits school districts, principals, other persons in charge of schools, or teachers from administering a questionnaire or survey unless written permission is obtained from a student's parent or guardian.
Section 7.  Amends AS 14.03.110(d) to require schools to inform parents or guardians of who will have access to results of questionnaires or surveys.
Section 8.  Requires regional school boards to establish procedures to provide required training for school employees.
Section 9.  Requires borough and city school boards to establish procedures to provide required training for school employees.
Section 10.  Requires the State Board of Education and Early Development (the board) to establish procedures for training employees of state boarding schools.
Section 11.  Allows school districts to determine how frequently to provide training related to selection of nondiscriminatory textbooks and educational materials.
Section 12.  Allows school districts to determine how frequently to provide employee evaluation training for certificated school employees.
Section 13.  Allows a school district to determine how frequently to provide alcohol and drug related disabilities training for school teachers, administrators, counselors, and specialists.
Section 14.  Removes "additional" from AS14.30.070(b), which pertains to physical
examinations for students required by the Department of Health and Social Services.
Section 15.  Prohibits school districts from paying the costs of physical examinations for
Section 16.  Provides that the governing bodies of school districts may adopt policies establishing training programs for employees and students related to sexual abuse and
sexual assault awareness and prevention and, in grades 7 - 12, dating violence and abuse awareness and prevention.
Section 17.  Prohibits school districts from permitting abortion services providers to offer, sponsor, or furnish course materials or instruction related to human sexuality or sexually transmitted diseases.
Section 18.  Makes conforming amendments to AS 14.30.370.
Section 19.  Allows school districts to determine how frequently to provide school crisis
response training.
Section 20.  Requires continuing education related to domestic violence and sexual
assault to be provided once every five years for state or local public employees.
Section 21.  Allows a person who possesses a valid teacher certificate and applies to work
at a facility licensed or certified by the department or who applies to work at a child care
facility or residential child care facility to request that the person's criminal justice
information and national criminal history record check on file with the department be
used to satisfy criminal history check requirements for the Department of Health and
Social Services.
Section 22.  Modifies state agency training intervals for recognition and reporting of child abuse for mandatory reporters of child abuse and neglect and allows school districts to determine how frequently to provide the training.
Section 23.  Repeals AS 14.03.075(a), (b), (c),and (e)(1), and AS 14.07.165(a)(5) and (b)
which relate to college and career readiness assessments; and AS 14.30.070(a) and 14.30.120, relating to physical examinations required for students.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

It's Not A Cristo - It's Lanie Fleisher Chester Creek Bike Trail Construction Closure

I noticed - how could I not - the orange material on the edge of the bike trail as I rode home yesterday from the LIO.  It looked like pretty nice material, but it didn't really look like a Christo art installation.

Yesterday on the way home there were some construction folks so I asked.

They are, if I understood this right, going to take out the old bike trail and completely redo it with jogging paths along the sides.  The trail certainly could use some repairs, but I couldn't help but think that they would close down the major streets completely for repairs all summer, and the Chester Creek bike trail is the Seward Highway of bike trails in Anchorage.  He said there'd be detour signs and routes.  We'll see.

I asked how long it would take.  He's got 70 days he said.  That's most of the summer here in Anchorage.  They'll do it in sections, he told me, so it won't all be closed at once.  It would be nice if they did this continuously - one short section per summer - and when they were done after, say ten years, they'd start over to keep the trail in good shape.  But I guess securing money over time like that isn't likely.

Anyway, I understood that the portion that's got the curtains - Maplewood west to near the Juneau Street spur - will be shut down on Tuesday for work to begin.  Actually, probably from Lake Otis west. 

I didn't know anything about this, but I found the plans online.  It seems they sent out notices to people who live along the trail.  But lots of folks use the trail who don't live along them.  Signs along the trail might be a good way to let cyclists, runners, and other trail users know about the planning phases.

Here's a link to the written documentation.  It's not at all clear which parts they will do when.

Here's a link to the maps documentation.  Again, not terribly clear about timing.

This is a huge file, so you can click on it and see it much bigger
Phase 1 was completed last summer.  It's beyond my regular routes, so I didn't notice.  

The whole project this summer goes from Arctic to the Arc (near Debarr).  The section near the Arc really, really needs to be repaired.  The roots damage there is horrendous.  And where I was, there are regular big bumps where the asphalt has contoured around pipes underneath. 

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

How Many Of Bin Laden's English Language Books Have You Read?

The Office of the Directory of National Intelligence has a page called Bin Laden's Bookshelf.

"On May 20, 2015, the ODNI released a sizeable tranche of documents recovered during the raid on the compound used to hide Usama bin Ladin. The release, which followed a rigorous interagency review, aligns with the President’s call for increased transparency–consistent with national security prerogatives–and the 2014 Intelligence Authorization Act, which required the ODNI to conduct a review of the documents for release.

The release contains two sections. The first is a list of non-classified, English-language material found in and around the compound. The second is a selection of now-declassified documents.

The Intelligence Community will be reviewing hundreds more documents in the near future for possible declassification and release. An interagency taskforce under the auspices of the White House and with the agreement of the DNI is reviewing all documents which supported disseminated intelligence cables, as well as other relevant material found around the compound. All documents whose publication will not hurt ongoing operations against al-Qa‘ida or their affiliates will be released."

I've highlighted the list of "English Language Books"  but each category has a list on the ODNI website.   I've only read one of the books on the list  and posted about it early on when few people read this blog. 

Here's the list: 
Now Declassified Material (103 items)
Publicly Available U.S. Government Documents (75 items)
English Language Books (39 items)
  • The 2030 Spike by Colin Mason
  • A Brief Guide to Understanding Islam by I. A. Ibrahim 
  • America’s Strategic Blunders by Willard Matthias
  • America’s “War on Terrorism” by Michel Chossudovsky
  • Al-Qaeda’s Online Media Strategies: From Abu Reuter to Irhabi 007 by Hanna Rogan
  • The Best Democracy Money Can Buy by Greg Palast
  • The Best Enemy Money Can Buy by Anthony Sutton
  • Black Box Voting, Ballot Tampering in the 21st Century by Bev Harris
  • Bloodlines of the Illuminati by Fritz Springmeier
  • Bounding the Global War on Terror by Jeffrey Record
  • Checking Iran’s Nuclear Ambitions by Henry Sokolski and Patrick Clawson
  • Christianity and Islam in Spain 756-1031 A.D. by C. R. Haines
  • Civil Democratic Islam: Partners, Resources, and Strategies by Cheryl Benard
  • Confessions of an Economic Hit Man by John Perkins
  • Conspirators’ Hierarchy: The Committee of 300 by John Coleman
  • Crossing the Rubicon by Michael Ruppert
  • Fortifying Pakistan: The Role of U.S. Internal Security Assistance (only the book’s introduction) by C. Christine Fair and Peter Chalk
  • Guerilla Air Defense: Antiaircraft Weapons and Techniques for Guerilla Forces by James Crabtree
  • Handbook of International Law by Anthony Aust
  • Hegemony or Survival: America’s Quest for Global Dominance by Noam Chomsky
  • Imperial Hubris by Michael Scheuer
  • In Pursuit of Allah’s Pleasure by Asim Abdul Maajid, Esaam-ud-Deen and Dr. Naahah Ibrahim
  • International Relations Theory and the Asia-Pacific by John Ikenberry and Michael Mastandano
  • Killing Hope: U.S. Military and CIA Interventions since World War II by William Blum
  • Military Intelligence Blunders by John Hughes-Wilson
  • Project MKULTRA, the CIA’s program of research in behavioral modification. Joint hearing before the Select Committee on Intelligence and the Subcommittee on Health and Scientific Research of the Committee on Human Resources, United States Senate, Ninety-fifth Congress, first session, August 3, 1977. United States. Congress. Senate. Select Committee on Intelligence.
  • Necessary Illusions: Thought Control in Democratic Societies by Noam Chomsky
  • New Pearl Harbor: Disturbing Questions about the Bush Administration and 9/11 by David Ray Griffin
  • New Political Religions, or Analysis of Modern Terrorism by Barry Cooper
  • Obama’s Wars by Bob Woodward
  • Oxford History of Modern War by Charles Townsend
  • The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers by Paul Kennedy
  • Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower by William Blum
  • The Secret Teachings of All Ages by Manly Hall (1928)
  • Secrets of the Federal Reserve by Eustace Mullins
  • The Taking of America 1-2-3 by Richard Sprague
  • Unfinished Business, U.S. Overseas Military Presence in the 21st Century by Michael O’Hanlon
  • The U.S. and Vietnam 1787-1941 by Robert Hopkins Miller
  • “Website Claims Steve Jackson Games Foretold 9/11,” article posted on (this file contained only a single saved web page)
Material Published by Violent Extremists & Terror Groups (35 items)
Materials Regarding France (19 items)
Media Articles (33 items)
Other Religious Documents (11 items)
Think Tank & Other Studies (40 items)
Software and Technical Manuals (30 items)
Other Miscellaneous Documents (14 items)
Documents Probably Used by Other Compound Residents (10 items)
I have to wonder what Bin Laden thought about his access to all this material - that the US was crazy to have this all available, or was there some admiration that a society would allow all this to be read by anyone?  

CS HB 44, After Long Discussion, Passes Unchanged From Education Committee

Sens.  Stevens, Giessel, Dunleavy, and Huggins before the hearing

This was a long discussion.  My impression was that the committee wasn't planning on changing anything, but that there was enough heat on them that they had to listen to some objections - mainly from Cindy and Butch Moore, whose daughter was shot by her boyfriend last June, and Sen. Liesel McGuire, who had sponsored one of the Erin's Law bills and had added the 'Bree's Law' section which added teen dating violence education.

Basic objections from the Moores was changing from opt out to opt in.  That is, that instead of letting parents opt out of sex abuse education classes, they now would have to give permission before they can take the classes.  The second objection was to changing "school districts shall"  to "school districts may" adopt the sexual awareness training.
Butch Moore with Sen. Stevens before hearing

McGuire's objections were 1) that there were constitutional questions about whether the committee could amend the bill with unrelated issues and 2) on practical legislative procedures grounds about whether adding parts that hadn't been vetted before committees, some controversial, might doom the bill to fail. 

Committee Chair Dunleavy at various times defended the changes in the bill.  He pointed out that making amendments to bills was part of the legislative process and not some evil activity, comparing the changes the committee made yesterday to the changes that Sen. McGuire made to the bill to add the teen dating violence aspects.  Staffer Sheila Peterson related the gist of a legal opinion about whether the amended bill would survive in court:  Depends on whether the judge interprets 'same subject" broadly or narrowly.  If judge says the subject is education it should be ok.  If the judge says the subject is 'sex abuse education'  probably not.  Everyone was acting excruciatingly civil, being sure to acknowledge each others' integrity and good intentions.

Huggins called McGuire the great omnibus bill creator and passer - presumably saying that was all they were doing here.  McGuire said one tip is to leave out controversial parts that might cause trouble.  I would add that omnibus bills try to tackle large complex issues with many parts - like energy policy - and that isn't quite the case here.  Rather, these other issues from failed bills were jammed in, presumably to try to piggy back them onto this bill that was likely to pass.  At least before the amendments were added.  

Toward the end, Sen. Giessel said that the common theme was parental rights and that these were given by God, not by the state.  After the bill had been passed out of committee, Sen. Dunleavy did a soliloquy on the importance of parental rights, the threat from the state to take away those rights, and this was an excellent bill and he didn't understand how anyone could be opposed to it.  This is worth reading or listening to because I think it helps understand Dunleavy's logic here and some of his basic values.   I might note that no one addressed, during the meeting, the language  "prohibiting a school district from contracting with an abortion services provider" or the part "prohibiting a school district from allowing an abortion services provider to furnish course materials or provide instruction concerning sexuality or sexually transmitted diseases."

Now it's supposed to move on to the Finance Committee.

Warning:  Below are my rough notes as I sat and listened.  I've cleaned them up a bit with spell checker.  As always, I caution readers that this is not verbatim, that things are missing, and words might not be exact, but it gets the gist of what was discussed until a more accurate record is available.  Which will probably be tomorrow.  (Yesterday's video and transcript are available today. Here's the link, though I'm not sure how long it will be good.)

Senate Education Hearing On Erin's Bill, Special Session Anchorage, May 20, 2015

11:01 am - meeting opens - Huggins, Stevens, Giessel, Dunleavy  - Sen. McGuire in the audience

Dunleavy goes over minutes of yesterday's meeting.
Testimony for several hours.  Previous to this meeting several hours of testimony.  Except funding and work ??? [I'm pretty sure this was about cutting out funding for ACT and SAT exams as well as the WorkKeys exam] ??? Rep. Gaddis - brand new program, budget issue, wanted to end it as a cost saving measure.

Sen. Stevens:  Something happened, I need to explain.  Lisa Parady, with the Alaska Council of School Administrators, sent email upset with me.  I think Erin's law is excellent piece of legislation and should pass.  As the father of two daughters and one son.  Ms. Parady was talking about everything and unfunded mandates.  I focused on unfunded mandate on Erin's law.  Sure, it's unfunded.  Many districts already doing this.  The Rasmussen Foundation has come forward and said they'd help, online training, in person training, and materials.  There are obstructionists saying it is unfunded.  That's baloney.  I say just go ahead and do it.  Apologize if I offended.  Not my intention.  People dragging their heals on excuse of unfunded mandate.

Dunleavy:  Further discussion, questions, if not, I'd like to remove my objection for purpose of discussion.  Any objection to adopting the CS?  No objections.  People waiting online and in the audience.  Sheila has numerous notes, public testimony in your packets.  Many sections of the bill - Erin's law well vetted.  The teen dating component, the Moores are intimately tied to and we understand, and that's been well vetted.

The only issue is the bill that passed in the house - Gaddis - it doesn't preclude a school from helping a kid take the SATs, but the law was that every student had to take it.  That the only issue that I believe that was not vetted by this committee.  Are there any questions that committee members have at this point?   [Gets note]  Cindy and Butch Moore you want to come forward and give closing statement?

Cindy Moore:  Here because of my daughter, Worked with Sen McGuire and Rep Millett, want to talk to objections.  Proven fact, children who are physically and sexually abused are not operating normally in class, can't learn, truant, aggressive, all problems for teachers.  If we teach them preventive measures, this will free up teachers' time.
Unfunded mandate - we've had many organizations saying there are grants available to implement this.  So not unfunded mandate.  What all need to realize.  Having our kids take that first step and come forward to authority figure to say they are being abused is the first step in recovery.  They won't do that if they don't have education on how to do that and who to talk to.  The CS version yesterday is a real slap in the face to the mother of  daughter who was killed.  Why is it ok for the committee chair to make it mandatory, but take away the part on teen violence and sexual awareness making it optional.  A slap in the face to all parents who have had their children sexually assaulted and their children abused.  I want you to think about that.

Butch Moore:  I'm Breanna's father.  This is a special section.  The gov asked for Erin's Law and Medicaid.  I'm in construction, if you were asked to complete a task - two line items - this train is moving.  What you have done, Sen. Dunleavy, is added a bunch of junk that has nothing to do with this bill that will kill the bill.  When you say schools 'shall', they will do it.  You've changed it to' may'.  You've taken all the power out of the bill.  You are killing the entire intent of the bill.  Cindy and I have been very polite, particularly in the meetings.  I'm asking you to go back to the three page bill, to the senate, the governor will sign it and our kids will be protected.  10,000 kids a year and that doesn't count teen dating.  Our daughter was in Oregon when her sister was killed.  She has two daughters.  Not coming back to Alaska.  We lead the nation in these numbers.  How will it look nationally to learn that this bill was blocked by three Senators - Dunleavy, Giessel, and Huggins.  I'm a contractor, if I took this long to get my job done, it would be terrible.

Liesel McGuire:  Thanks for opportunity to testify.  The version of the bill before the committee today is not the version the Senate passed two years ago.  Most of the senate has already voted for the clean version.  There is broad bi partisan, regional support.  Rep. Millett, Sen. Garner, and Rep Tarr have all taken this bill.  All four have had wide public hearings.  My worry is multifaceted.
  1. Constitutionally, the specific item was HB 44, fear that it is being expanded that I don't think is defensible.  Should this bill pass, would it undermine the langauge of Erin's and Bree's law.  Constitutional.
  2. Process and Fairness - it's exciting to be doing this in Anchorage.  The Moores can participate without having to buy a $600 plane ticket.  But I'm embarrassed by how it looks like the process is being distorted.  None of the three other bills are free of controversy.  None have passed unanimously.  They have valid public policy points.  It's within your rights to hear things as you will, but to roll it into an uncontroversial bill could kill it.  Alaska leads the nation in abuse and violence in every category, age, race, gender.  We do not want this to continue.  Every year try to take one more piece to pull back the veil and shame of domestic violence.  Still the most dangerous place in America for women and children.  Today is an opportunity to change the culture in Alaska, by empowering the victims, who have been shamed and threatened into silence.  We've heard powerful testimony from people like David Holthouse.  David contemplated suicide and murder of his perpetrator.
Cindy and Butch Moore - this was a good bill.  The additions, I may support later, I don't know.  Millet is the Majority leader in the house and isn't sure it will pass.  If you want my support and other people's support to pass the other measures, let's talk about it.
Let's not muddy this up.

Dunleavy:  Last year Erin's Law passed 20-0.  Was Bree's Law in there?

McGuire:  No

Dunleavy:  Folks might not like what is occurring.  I've been in committees where things are amended.  Not shady, unconstitutional, illegal, part of the process.  We actually slowed the bill down so you could add Bree's Law to it.

Stevens:  I think I understand the implication to our school districts and departments, about Erin's law.  But I don't understand the teen dating violence curriculum.

McGuire:  Sen Dunleavy is right.  The bill that passed the Senate was titled Erin's law.  It was mandatory not optional and did not contain Bree's law.  The Moore family asked me to add Bree's Law in.  I agree, and both have been vetted.  I agree that nothing was shady.

We already have the Greendot program.  That is the base for the teen dating violence program and Rasmuson Foundation has also offered to help.  I believe STAR will also come forward.
You are right that many districts have already adopted and for those districts that are concerned, we're trying to offer help.

Stevens:  Can you explain the shall to may change.

McGuire:  You all require in an earlier hearing.  Should parents have the right to opt in or out.  Agreed that parental rights were retained.  Later, the bill still had snags over concerns of unfunded mandated issues, rural issues not equipped to put it in place.  Discussion for opt in language for parents and shool districts.  The genesis for shall to may.  Don't let the perfect get in the way of the possible.  Look at the most important thing - giving info to vulnerable children.  Give it to as many as you can.  If making it optional makes it possible for the bill to pass, then I'm for it.  I think the three additional parts may be a bridge too far.

Huggins:  If I were to portray you in getting legislation done, you are a master of omnibus bills.  Each piece of an omnibus bill carries it's own merit.  My standard - we aren't seeking to pass something in the house.  I'm confident it will pass the Senate and I've talked to the Moores.  What advice do you have for omnibus bills?

McGuire:  Thank you for compliment.  I've tried to bring broad base of support.  Things they are cut for me are when there is too much controversy that might jeopardize other parts.  I've even done it with my own things.  I appreciate what's been said.  I respect you all, I think you are ethical people.  You are dealing with a highly emotional issue, with frustrations about not getting it passed.  Then you add, perfectly in your right, three other bills with their own constituents, and that is problematic.

I want to see the basic part of the bill passed.

Huggins:  We all have children.  I have three.  I feel comfortable with what my kids are learning.  Some of the things in the bill, when I see opportunity to empower parents, we shouldn't miss that opportunity.

McGuire:  I do agree.  I appreciate this committee's good discussion.  You don't want to remove the right and obligation of parent to interact with schools on these issues.  Why I accepted this in the first place.  I agree, if you would poll, Alaskans, they would want parental input.  That said, what I like about it as an underpinning in school, many parents are not there for their kids, and are in fact perpetrators.
ADN's Nat Herz and Sen Dunleavy

Huggins:  We probably have as good a rapport from Matsu with superintendent and I'm sure our superintendent will take this and run with it.  Is there a difference in the Anchorage School District

McGuire:  Yes there is.  I've highlighted them in other places.  What you've done in the valley is competition driven.  ASD is more diverse - 120 languages - that's one challenge.  Politically a little more liberal.  I wouldn't say the challenges faced by kids in ASD are that much different from those in Matsu.  Repealing SAT - I'd have concern with students who might be raised in families where the families are trying to curtail the opportunities their kids have.  I've heard these stories.  Sometimes a test like this is the key for a kid to be able to follow her dreams.  I want to study these bills.  We have immigrant families who don't know about college the way others do.  Or there is a scholarship available if you score high enough on the test.

Huggins:  I feel comfortable that no one who wants to take the test will be denied.  And a number take the tests earlier.  We face budget issues.  People who want to take the test . . .

Dunleavy:  It's a program that's one year old.  If we have a low income child, they will be able to take the test.  It's easier to stop new project.
Another question.  One reason we slowed down this bill, because you wanted to amend the bill.  You were gone because of illness in the family.  But I want to emphasize that you amended this bill.
I had bills that I slowed down because of amendments.  No one on the committee will say that children should be harmed in any fashion.  I have three daughters - 22, 16, 18?    If anyone says that anyone who changes it is in favor of hurting kids or is complicit in hurting kids.  You feel adamant about your parental rights.  Part of the reason we are here is because of your unfortunate absence.  Bree's section is an amendment.

McGuire:  I haven't heard anyone question the commitment to kids.  My testimony, to be clear, is that I had two main concerns around practicality.  Not to imply motive or that it's not in your purview.  I said it was based on the Governor's call for HB 44, which contained only the Brees Law and Erin's Law.  That's my first concern.

Number 2, one of practicality.  I've never heard the bill on AZT SAT.  From a practical point of view - trying to get across the finish line.  What I amended was something closely related and had broad support.  I want to be clear on the record.  Not saying you don't have the right or the right motive.  I believe you are all great.

Giessel:  Glad you brought up issue of   children.  There is actually a centralized theme.  It goes back to central authority of parents to direct their kids education.  This right is not given by government.  It is God given.  That is the central theme.  While you may think these are unrelated issues.

Dunleavy:  We agree that Erin's law is a good bill.  Would you agree that you made it better by adding Bree's law?

McGuire:  Yes.

Dunleavy;  Most of us have been working through this special session.  Trying to find out that if we run bills they are constitutional.  Sheila, is a CS that we have before us, what did legal counsel share.

Sheila Peterson:  I work at ??? - Asked me to work closely with Doug Gardner at Legal Services.  One question I asked was whether the topics were germane to topic.  It is constitutionally required that it cover only one subject.  It would go to the court to get determination.  Legal services want to look at all possibilities.  Doug wrote the opinion and I can make copies.  he did say in a regular session, it would be germane.  One topic, public education.  In a special session, with the governor saying HB 44 - Sexual Abuse and Dating Violence - we have heard several bills 31 and 37 on the same subject.  Sen 31 - two amendments added were in 31  fingerprinting and ???.  But that is a little more complicated.  Doug said court will look at broad range of interpretation, then ok.  Nothing in the bill not about public education.  if the court takes a narrow view, there may be a problem.  Some of these do not relate to sexual abuse. 

Dunleavy:  Did Doug say it was unconstitutional?

Sheila:  No

Dunleavy:  He can't determine that, it's up to the courts.  Fiscal note?

Sheila:  Substitute was designed for zero fiscal note.

Dunleavy:  When we constructed the bill we wanted to not add any money to the budget.  No additional costs.  That's one reason the bill is in, because it reduces costs.  It's not a lot of money, but it's a little bit.  I think it's a good addition to the bill.  Still have DOE on line and Dr. Lisa Parady with Council of School Administrators.

Stevens:  Complex bill.  Part that I have concern about is testing.  High School exit exams - parents said that HS diploma has no meaning any more.  So exit exam was installed to correct that and it didn't work and we did away with it.  Now we're going to the next step and getting rid of these tests.  What does a HS diploma mean?    If we do away with these tests, what do we have left?  What is the accountability. 

 Dunleavy:  That was part of the discussion last year when we got rid of exam.  If you didn't pass the exit exam you only got a certificate of attendance.  That high stakes test was gone.  Prior to that school districts and children always taking tests - ACT and SAT.  They were aimed at kids entering college, but not to evaluate academic performance.

Stevens:  It seems to me that the Work??? is a good demonstration.

Les Morse:  Dept of Ed. Early Development - Whole idea behind the ACT and SAT to move from basic skills assessment to determine if kids with academic ed in HS, were they ready for college.  the Work Key on work preparedness.  Work Keys could be designed for all students no matter what the student's objective.  But when we put this requirement in place, concern about how many tests.  We eliminated the HS qualifying exam that too 3 or more days.  Hesitated to have everyone to take the Work Keys, we didn't want to require college bound kids who wanted to take the ACT or SAT.
In terms of student accountability - it helps the kids to think about the future and the way we do it, a lot more students have access.  Students still have to pass the local district requirements - state has minimum requirements.  That would be the individual student accountability.  None, now, are high stakes tests.  For students.

Stevens:  Where are we now?  If we pass this, what does that mean?  What does a HS grad have to do?  You said, pass their classes.  Would you have to take any of the tests?

Morse:  If passed, that part of it - removal of college readiness component - the last time they would take a statewide test would be in 10th grade and has no impact on going on to next grade.  They could choose to take the ACT and SAT if available in the community.  The Work Keys test would not be available.  Dept. of Labor isn't set up for doing that.  The funding is no longer in our budget.

Stevens:  Still concerns about this.  Especially ACT and SAT.  Probably means kids in smaller communities won't have access.  Kids would have to fly somewhere to take it.

Dunleavy:  When I taught in rural Alaska in the 80s and 90s I actually proctored the SAT.   If all children took the ACT or SAT and question of accountability came up - again, these tests aren't for accountability are they?  Are the scores posted - show what percent of student.

Morse:  They are posted in State Report Card to the public.  That's always been in place - statewide aggregate.  Also need to clarify.  There are places in rural Alaska where these are given, but not in all sites.  One district with 11 sets, offer ACT in 2 of their 11 sites.  Costs incurred.  We did increase ACT testing significantly by using a state contract.  Passage of this bill which removes the Work Keys, ACT, and SAT.  The kids would get nothing from the school, they would have to pay for it.  Access would be gone for kids.

Dunleavy:  How long has ACT been around that required ?

Morse:  Since 2010.  There was no limitation for one - the Work Keys.

Dunleavy:  Eliminating to save money was this year?

Morse:  That model was crafted to say for SAT, ACT, and Work Keys.  Now it removes all the money?

Dunleavy:  This program was not in place?

Morse:  In the past we only paid for Work Keys.

Giessel:  We eliminated exit exam because it was so dumbdowned.  Was it effective assessment to know how the schools?

Morse:  I wouldn't say completely ineffective, but the population was for the population of students who were really struggling.  It didn't necessarily tell the public how our students were doing.

Norm Wooten:  Association of Public School Boards

Huggins:  I move that the bill is moved.

Dunleavy:  Any objections?  Seeing none, the bill will move to the next committee.

Stevens:  Plan is to go to Finance committee?

Huggins [Dunleavy (sorry!!!)]:  I think it's a very good bill.  I think it's crucial that we train students in what is good touch bad touch, the Stranger Danger notion in the past is unmasked.  There are folks that kids know who take advantage of them.  I think component that we put in there after Bree is also crucial.  Especially in this modern age of cell phones.  Even great parents don't know what is happening to their kids.  I came from a family of all boys.  Not just women.  Mostly perpetrated by men on women.  This goes a long way to make sure this doesn't happen.  I think the parental rights component is crucial.  I have lots of parents who feel they are not citizens, but subjects of the state of Alaska.  It has become such a coercive relationship between citizens and the state.  This bill says, wait a minute.  We don't think this particular survey is right for our children.  We aren't ready to cede to the state that parents are not fit at best and criminal at worst.  The mandates we are taking off of school districts - as a teacher, principal - I've seen and even participated in the piling on of the greatest latest methods.  Components in training teenagers learn to relate properly.  I believe that most parents will not opt out.  I certainly won't.  I don't think I'd opt out.  I'd want to see the curriculum.  What is really happening in the schools.  We thought it was math, science and history.  We're finding out it's more.  No rush of parents saying we want to adopt common core, we want high stakes testing.  This was not done by parents.  Parents were asking me, what rights do we have left as parents.  There is no other place where people not charged with crime are coerced into doing things.  Don't do this elsewhere.  But with education it's there.  I think it's a great bill.  Any one who would vote against this bill because of some of the components in the bill, should give it another thought.  I don't want to see us knocking on doors with police officers because we want to drag off their kids to educate them they way we want.  There's a good private school  There is too much fear with government.  We talk about overreach of federal government.

Will there people having a tough time voting for this bill?  Maybe.  This is a serious bill with serious topics.  I think the passage of this bill, Alaska takes a step forward.  Parents, people expected to help them with homework, put them on the bus, their first teachers, should be part of the process.  I think this bill goes a long way to prevent that.

For folks thinking maybe not, they'll have to follow their conscious.  Public process not always easy.  Sometimes very difficult.  Thank the Senators here, including Gardner, but I want to emphasize, if you have a son getting a PhD from MIT, you have to be there.

 School supporters and Medicaid supporters in front of Legislative Information Office when I left. 

Sen. Dunleavy Plays Politics With Bill To Protect Kids From Sexual Predators

I'd put down a public hearing on Erin's Law today on my calendar.  5:30pm at the newly refitted Legislative Information Building.   But then I saw tweets during the day that the Senate education committee was tinkering with the bill.

At the evening hearing it sounded more like they gutted the bill.  This bill, simply, requires that schools give age appropriate instruction about inappropriate touching, what to say when someone tries to touch, and how to get help.  Most importantly, that it's not your fault and you need to tell someone so the person stops and so other kids also don't get abused.

In the Senate hearing, Sen. Dunleavy's committee made a few significant changes to Erin's Law.
  • Changed student attendance in these classes from parents opt out, to parents opt in.  That is, the original bill allowed parents to pull their kids from the classes.  The Senate changes require the parents' approval before the kids can take the classes.  
  • Changed the mandate for schools to use the program from 'shall' to 'may'. 
But I think the language that some used to describe the changes - hijacked the bill - is more accurate.  In Alaska, the title of the bill has to accurately describe what's in the bill.  That means names like "Save the Children Act" cannot be used for a bill that actually leaves kids unprotected.  That's a good thing (that the name must reflect what's in the bill.)  So, to give you a sense of the changes that took place in Tuesday's Senate education committee meeting, I offer you the title of, first, HB 44 as it was yesterday:

HB 44 Title (the original bill that has already passed the House)
"CS FOR HOUSE BILL NO. 44(FIN)                                                                   
"An Act relating to sexual abuse and sexual assault awareness and prevention efforts in  public schools; and relating to dating violence and abuse awareness and prevention efforts in public schools."  

[Update 12:24am: I originally put up the earliest version of the title.  This one changed to add the section on dating violence because of the efforts of the Moore's (see below.)  You can see the whole bills HB 44  and CSHB 44.]

And, second, the education committee's substitute bill title:

SCS CSHB 44(   ) Title (I don't remember any more what the SCS means for sure.  The CSHB means, committee substitute for House Bill 44)
"An Act relating to a parent's right to direct the education of a child; relating to course mastery requirements; relating to the duties of the Department of Education and Early Development; prohibiting a school district from contracting with an abortion services provider; relating to questionnaires administered in a public school; relating to the duties of school districts; relating to training for school employees and mandatory reporters of child abuse or neglect; relating to physical examinations for students; relating to physical examinations for teachers; relating to sexual abuse and sexual assault awareness and prevention efforts in public schools; relating to dating violence and abuse awareness and prevention efforts in public schools; prohibiting a school district from allowing an abortion services provider to furnish course materials or provide instruction concerning sexuality or sexually transmitted diseases; relating to national criminal history record check requirements for employees of child care facilities and residential child care facilities; and repealing the requirement for secondary students to take college and career readiness assessments."

From what I understand, they added two bills [UPDATE 5/21/15: turns out it was three] into this one.  Bills that hadn't made it through the legislature.  The governor specifically asked that Erin's Law be passed, and so they took the opportunity to add their own two [three] laws into this bill.   If you read the second title, you'll notice stuff prohibiting school districts from contracting with abortion service providers, duties of school districts, physical exams of students and teachers, and on and on. 

I can't even begin to write out the testimony I heard this evening at the Minority Caucus' public hearing, nor to explain what happened at the earlier Senate education committee hearing.  Fortunately, John Arono at Alaska Commons took good notes and you can check his explanation if you like.

Like everyone who testified - mostly people who had personally been abused, had had family members abused, or worked with abused people - I can't help but feel that Sen. Dunleavy has totally trashed Erin's Law.  If he really thinks he's made minor changes, he's just ignorant.  If he realizes what he's done, he's venal.  [UPDATE May 22:  Venal is definitely the wrong word here as I explain in a more recent post.  I retract it and apologize to Sen. Dunleavy.]  Because Erin's Law would, as people testified it had in other states,  help kids recognize when inappropriate behavior is taking place, learn how to respond to such behavior, and know how to report it.  They would learn the threats of abusers - "No one will believe you."  "If you tell, I'll come back and kill you and your family." "If you tell, you will only ruin the whole family." - and know these are what abusers always say.  Learn that these are signs that you need to tell [a parent or other authority figure about.]

As people testified - and I listened to earlier testimony on this bill - they emphasized that child abuse has long lasting debilitating impacts on kids.  Without an Erin's law, kids will wait until many years later before confessing (yes, many are made to feel it's their own fault) to anyone what happened, allowing the perpetrator to molest other kids, and they usually do.  That these things devastate families and even communities.

One of the objections some legislators have made is that this is "an unfunded mandate."  That, of course, is one of the Republican buzzwords to tar legislation they don't like.  But I'd argue that not passing this bill is a huge unfunded mandate - to provide all sorts of services to the victims, to deal with the victims' loss of interest in school and life, and victims' inability to get and hold jobs later on.  And, in some cases, to victimize others themselves.

When I spent a fair amount of time at Covenant House, it soon became clear, that many, if not most of the kids there had left home because of various kinds of abuse.  The various young men that I mentored there all had histories of sexual abuse as kids.  It really screws you up.

Erin's Law is the simplest and most effective way the legislature can stop the enormous toll on Alaska kids.  Stats presented at the meeting included:  1700 kids have been abused this past school year.  April had 302 allegations of sexual abuse that, from what I can tell from the handout, reached the Office of Children's Services.  852 reports were screened by Protective Services in April.

Not providing kids with the information they need to recognize and respond to sexual predators is unconscionable.   John Arono writes:
“People were concentrating on the big issues that affected the state versus other issues that didn’t quite get to the top of the pot,” House Speaker Mike Chenault (R-Nikiski) told KTOO’s Lisa Phu at the time.
If preventing hundreds of incidents of sexual abuse of children a month is on [not] one of the 'big issues' then these legislators have their priorities totally wrong.  Not only are we preventing suffering, but prevention efforts save all sorts of money in the future when we deal with the dysfunction of adults who have been abused as kids.  (And I don't mean to imply that all abused kids don't find ways to function as reasonably responsible adults, but a high proportion of people who end up in prison, were abused as kids.)

As a reporter, I took lots of notes at the public testimony.  But what was most compelling was people telling their own stories.  But, even though this was a public hearing, I felt whipping out my camera and video taping people's testimony was much too invasive.

But I did find this video of Cindy Moore whose daughter was shot by her boyfriend last June.  Cindy and her husband Butch both testified.  This will give you a sense of how important this is.  

video platformvideo managementvideo solutionsvideo player

[UPDATE 12:24 am:  There will be another hearing on this bill Wednesday, May 20, 2015 in the Legislative Information Office on 4th Avenue at 11:00am. You can go in person or listen online.  Scroll down to Senate Education Committee. ]

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Do You Know Any Of These People? They Gave $500 Or More To Mike Chenault

And maybe they could talk to him about Medicaid expansion.  

I put together this chart using information from the APOC Campaign Disclosure pages.  The site doesn't seem to allow me to link to the main search results I got.   The link takes you here and then you have to fill in the time period (I did 12/31/2013 to 05/18/2015) and then Chenault.  That will give six pages of contributions.  I've listed the ones that are $500 or more.  I've put them basically in alphabetical order by donor name, though I tried to group donations from the same organization.  There are some links in the chart - it's hard to tell, but they're underlined.  And while I'm trying to present this neutrally, the legislative majority's fuck you attitude to anyone who doesn't agree with them makes it pretty hard.  But at least I hope I've got the details reasonably accurate.

(There was a lot of data and I did keep checking, but you might double check before you use these numbers elsewhere.  I also left out contributions of less than $500 that might have added to the amounts given by organizations mentioned above.)

(If you look closely, there's lots of oil related money.  Some of the larger contributors include  GCI (Citizens for Competition and the GCI Pres and VP) has $2000 in there, construction interests, dentists, and the Penney and Wells families.)

Why am I doing this?

Mike Chenault, the Speaker of the Alaska House of Representatives, is part of the Alaska legislative leadership that passed a budget that is underfunded by about $3 billion.  (These are Republicans mind you.)  Although for most things the Republican majority in Juneau can do whatever they want without  cooperation from the Democrats, they can't take money from the Constitutional Budget Reserve (CBR) without help from Democrats. And they need $3 billion from the CBR to balance the budget.    Democrats are willing to cooperate, but they'd like to see some changes made first.

They'd like to see Medicaid expanded using federal dollars which would add  40,000 or so more Alaskans will have health care coverage and save the state money.  The Republicans refuse.
They'd like to see Erin's Law passed, so kids recognize sex abuse and know how to avoid it and report it.  The Republicans refuse. 
They'd like to see some of the large capital expenditures - like the Knik Arm bridge and the extension of Bragaw - cut out of the budget.  The Republicans refuse.
They'd like to see education cuts restored.  The Republicans refuse.

The governor says he can't sign a budget that isn't fully funded and called the legislature into a special session in Juneau. 

But, there is not even the slightest show of respect or cooperation on Chenault's part.  He's spitting on the governor's order for a special session in Juneau,  meeting there just long enough to adjourn.  He's calling for the special session to be held in Anchorage, which may not even be legal.  And House Majority Leader Rep. Charisse Millett said the governor may have to sue them to get them back to Juneau.  These are supposed to be civilized people working in a democracy.  (Note to Rep. Reinbold, there is hope for your resurrection.  Millett was persona non grata like you just a couple of years ago and now she's Majority Leader.)

Now that I've given that background, let's get back to Medicaid Expansion.which has the support of 65% of Alaskans.  Here's a small portion of the organizations in support as listed on the state Health and Social Services website:

Alaska AFL-CIO
Alaska Brain Injury Network 
Alaska Chamber of Commerce
Alaska Federation of Natives
Alaska Heart Association/Alaska Stroke Association
Alaska Injury Prevention Center
Alaska Municipal League
Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium
Alaska Nurses Association
Alaska Pharmacy Association
Alaska Physical Therapy Association
Alaska Physicians & Surgeons
Alaska Primary Care Association
Alaska State Hospital & Nursing Home Association (Gave $250 to Chenault)
Alaska State Medical Association
Anchorage Chamber of Commerce
Anchorage Municipal Assembly
Bartlett Regional Hospital
Catholic Social Services
Doyon Limited
Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly
NANA Regional Corporation (INUU a PAC of one of NANA's companies gave $500 to Chenault)
National Association of Social Workers Alaska Chapter
United Way of Anchorage

This list includes Native organizations, many professional organizations involved in health care, municipal organizations, and even the Anchorage and Alaska chambers of commerce.  I've noted a couple of organizations here that have also given money to Chenault.

Presumably, the people on the list of contributors up top should have some clout with Chenault.   The money he raised was far, far more than what he needed to win. His opponent, Rocky Knudsen, raised $10,190 including, $3500 of which he apparently borrowed and paid back at the end. 

So Chenault's fund raising wasn't about winning the election, he raised a lot more money than he needed.  It was about showing loyalty to and buying access to the House Speaker. 

In fact, Chenault's reports show his campaign used less than half the money he raised. 

Chenault raised about $46,000 for his 2014 campaign.  At the end, he had nearly $25,000 left over.  Well, technically, it's all been spent, but about $9500 was donated at the end to organizations like the Girls and Boys Clubs and to PTAs of schools in Chenault's district.  $10,000 (the limit allowed) went into his POET account.  From the APOC FAQ page:
"Public Office Expense Term account.  The money in the account may be used only to pay expenses associated with the candidate’s serving as a legislator or municipal official and all expenditures must be disclosed in a year end P.O.E.T account report. "
And he was able to put another $5000 into his future campaigns account.

It's clear to me that his campaign contributors were buying access more than they were helping him win his election, because he didn't need the money.   These are people who should be able to talk to him.  Most, I'm sure, were more interested in protecting their business interests than things like Medicaid expansion.  Some, of course, were just old friends with deep pockets.  Others may share Chenault's stand on this Medicaid expansion.  Though I'm guessing Chenault's refusal to budge on Medicaid is less ideology and more about enticements and threats coming from national organizations like Americans for Prosperity on this issue.

What Can You Do?

In any case, if you know any of the folks on the list, you might check with them where they stand on Medicaid expansion.  Surely $500 buys them the right to have their phone calls answered by Chenault and they could check on why he's favoring outside interests who want to stick it to Obama rather than get health coverage for 40,000 Alaskans and save the state money.   Or even if you don't them, you can contact them and let them know you're disappointed in Chenault's boorish behavior and their support of it. 

I know, it's a longshot, but refusing to expand Medicaid is crazy.  Even the Chamber of Commerce sees the value of it.  I figure reason isn't going to make a difference, but if ten or twenty folks ($5000 - $10,000)  on the list were to talk to Chenault, maybe that could make a difference.  

But maybe not.  As I was researching this post I came across this interesting tidbit.  Alaska's highest paid lobbyist had, as one of her assignments, getting Medicaid expansion passed.

"1. Wendy Chamberlain — $1,111,000 in annual contracts
Biggest Contract — $100,000. Hired by the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium to work on all issues relating to Alaska Native healthcare, including Medicaid expansion. . ."