Sen. Mike Dunleavy, R-Wasilla, and his staff member, Christa McDonald, left, speak to the House Education Committee about his bill, SB 89, at the Capitol on Wednesday.

Sen. Mike Dunleavy, R-Wasilla, and his staff member, Christa McDonald, left, speak to the House Education Committee about his bill, SB 89, at the Capitol on Wednesday.

Planned Parenthood ban bill clears another committee

A bill that would require parents to opt-in before students can learn sex education and ban abortion providers from teaching it in schools is another step closer to becoming law.

Senate Bill 89, sponsored by Wasilla Republican Sen. Mike Dunleavy, passed the House Education Committee Wednesday morning 4-3.

Rep. Paul Seaton, R-Homer, was one of the ‘no’ votes.

“We have a prohibition in here removing local control of local school districts,” Seaton said, referencing the part of the bill that prohibits school districts from contracting with an abortion services provider.

He said the bill would result in less sex education in schools, causing rates of unplanned pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections to increase.

Also in opposition, Rep. Ivy Spohnholz, D-Anchorage, said the “opt-in” requirement of the bill creates an unnecessary barrier to good sexual health education.

“It requires parents to sign a written consent form for their children to participate in every instance of sexual health education, and requires the school districts and schools to then process those permission slips,” Spohnholz said.

She said parents already have the right to pull their child out of sexual health education.

Committee chair Rep. Wes Keller, R-Wasilla, said SB 89 clarifies parental rights and enhances parent involvement. The bill would require districts to provide notification to parents “not less than two weeks before” any lesson that involves human reproduction or sexual matters.

“It’s a right of a parent to be well informed,” said Keller, who voted ‘yes’ on the bill.

Another ‘yes’ vote came from Palmer Republican Rep. Jim Colver. He noted SB 89 puts into statute the right of parents to pull their children out of standard-based tests.

“Hopefully we can retool assessments to where we’re just not following Uncle Sam down the road in a path that doesn’t improve student learning, and that’s what we’ve been doing ever since we’ve been involved in No Child Left Behind. So I’m looking forward to embracing standards-based assessments that give us meaningful data moving forward,” Colver said.

SB 89 would also prohibit school districts from covering the cost of physical examinations for teachers.

Currently, teachers are required to receive physical examinations, according to Alaska Department of Education and Early Development regulations. But it is not in statute. State law doesn’t require districts to pay for the exams, so it varies district to district.

Colver said the bill relieves a financial burden, although Dunleavy’s office didn’t have data on how much money the bill would save school districts. Seaton said it was another example of the state taking local control away from school districts.

An amendment from Rep. Liz Vazquez, R-Anchorage, that would require teachers to get physical examinations as a condition of employment did not pass.

Keller’s amendment to add language to the bill did pass. He said the new wording clarifies that an employee or volunteer of an abortion services provider who’s instructing or providing materials on human sexuality or sexual matters is only in violation of the law if that person is acting on behalf of the abortion services provider.

Aside from Keller and Colver, other ‘yes’ votes came from Rep. David Talerico, R-Healy, and Vazquez.

Rep. Harriet Drummond, D-Anchorage, voted ‘no’ with Seaton and Spohnholz.

Dunleavy’s bill has already passed the Senate. It still has to go through at least another House committee and a floor vote before it hits the governor’s desk.

• Contact reporter Lisa Phu at 523-2246 or lisa.phu@juneauempire.com.

House Education Committee members Rep. Wes Keller, R-Wasilla, left, Rep David Talerico, R-Healy, center, and Rep. Harriet Drummond, D-Anchorage, listen to Sen. Mike Dunleavy, R-Wasilla, and his staff member, Christa McDonald, speak about Sen. Dunleavy's bill, SB 89, at the Capitol on Wednesday.

House Education Committee members Rep. Wes Keller, R-Wasilla, left, Rep David Talerico, R-Healy, center, and Rep. Harriet Drummond, D-Anchorage, listen to Sen. Mike Dunleavy, R-Wasilla, and his staff member, Christa McDonald, speak about Sen. Dunleavy’s bill, SB 89, at the Capitol on Wednesday.

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