Legislature(2001 - 2002)

02/07/2001 08:10 AM EDU

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HB 71 - EDUC. OF DISABLED OR GIFTED CHILDREN                                                                                  
Number 0198                                                                                                                     
CHAIR BUNDE announced  the first order of business  as HOUSE BILL                                                               
NO.  71, "An  Act  relating  to the  education  of children  with                                                               
disabilities and  of gifted children; relating  to the Governor's                                                               
Council on Disabilities and  Special Education; making conforming                                                               
amendments; and providing for an effective date."                                                                               
CHAIR  BUNDE went  over HB  71 since  there was  no one  from the                                                               
administration to present  it.  The bill is a  requirement of the                                                               
federal  government to  adjust the  funding of  disabled children                                                               
and basically remove gifted children from the disabled funding.                                                                 
CHAIR BUNDE  referred to  the fiscal note,  [$103,400] of  new GF                                                               
[general  fund],   which  would  continue  the   gifted  programs                                                               
formerly funded  out of  the special education  money.   He noted                                                               
that  HB 71  amends  the  Alaska statutes  and  brings them  into                                                               
compliance with  current federal  special education  mandates and                                                               
emphasizes  the participation  of  parents  in making  decisions.                                                               
"In shorthand for that is if we  don't do it, we'll stand to lose                                                               
federal money."   It clarifies  the procedure for  requesting due                                                               
process  hearings,  streamlines  the   process  for  selecting  a                                                               
hearing  officer, and  provides  allocation responsibilities  and                                                               
coordination of  services among various educational  agencies for                                                               
special  education  students  who  are  enrolled  in  alternative                                                               
education programs.                                                                                                             
CHAIR BUNDE went  on to say that the bill  requires local schools                                                               
to provide  services to disabled  children who attend  private or                                                               
religious schools  or who are  home schooled.  It  allows parents                                                               
of home schooled  children to also refuse  services; replaces the                                                               
provision  regarding separate  transportation by  school district                                                               
with  a  requirement   that  issue  be  determined   by  the  IEP                                                               
[individual  education plan]  that special  needs children  have,                                                               
which  has been  part of  their  education for  years and  years;                                                               
separates  Alaska statutes  regarding special  education services                                                               
and gifted  education services  as required by  federal law.   It                                                               
does, however,  maintain procedural safeguards for  both programs                                                               
and repeals and re-enacts definitions.                                                                                          
Number 0409                                                                                                                     
DEBBIE OSSIANDER, Member and  Legislative Chair, Anchorage School                                                               
Board,  testified  via teleconference.    She  reported that  the                                                               
Anchorage School  Board has  been following  this issue  for some                                                               
time  now  and  has  heard  comments  from  folks  all  over  the                                                               
community regarding  the potential for  this bill.  The  board is                                                               
not supportive  of separating the  gifted out from  other special                                                               
education  unless  it has  been  determined  with certainty  that                                                               
Alaska  is  in  jeopardy  of  losing  federal  special  education                                                               
dollars.     Last  November  some  people   from  the  department                                                               
[Education and  Early Development] told  the board that  that was                                                               
not  yet certain.   First,  the board  would like  some assurance                                                               
that that has been determined.                                                                                                  
MS.  OSSIANDER said  the  board  has a  number  of questions  and                                                               
concerns  on  this  bill based  on  conversations  between  board                                                               
members and their superintendent.   It hasn't yet been thoroughly                                                               
discussed  with the  Anchorage special  education  people, so  at                                                               
this point, there are more questions than anything.                                                                             
MS. OSSIANDER  referred to page  3, Section  9, lines 25  and 28,                                                               
where the  word "participate" is used  rather than "consultation"                                                               
in  the evaluation.    She wondered  if that  means  a change  in                                                               
responsibility; what  are the specific implications  of that word                                                               
choice for districts?                                                                                                           
MS.  OSSIANDER referred  to page  7, Section  19, line  26, which                                                               
uses  the  words  "individualized education  program,"  which  is                                                               
different than  "individual education plan."   The board believes                                                               
that the  intent was merely  to reword current practice,  but the                                                               
first sentence in  lines 26-27 basically says  the district shall                                                               
develop  an individualized  education program.   She  wondered if                                                               
that means there is a  separate, distinct district responsibility                                                               
from the individual  team responsibility to develop a  plan for a                                                               
MS. OSSIANDER referred to page  9, Section 21, lines 15-19, which                                                               
refers  to  a  situation  where  a district  does  not  have  the                                                               
capability  for  delivering  the  education that  a  child  needs                                                               
locally.  The board has some  concerns about this and may present                                                               
an amendment  after talking  to the  special education  people in                                                               
Anchorage.  Anchorage  serves as a statewide  resource to provide                                                               
medical  needs   and  educational  services  for   low  incidence                                                               
disabilities.    Right  now  those children  are  in  a  separate                                                               
category of the  state funding formula.  Typically  they are more                                                               
expensive to  educate.  Her  concern is that these  children need                                                               
to come  in before the  count date in  order for the  district to                                                               
receive additional funding to make  sure the children's needs can                                                               
be met adequately.  She asked  the committee to at least consider                                                               
the possibility  of giving the  district the ability  to document                                                               
the needs it is experiencing at some point through the year.                                                                    
MS.  OSSIANDER   reported  that  additionally,  there   are  some                                                               
extremely  unusual situations  where there  is no  ability within                                                               
the state of Alaska to provide  for needed services.  There was a                                                               
case  last year  that caused  great  concern.   That has  usually                                                               
happened with a severely emotionally  disturbed child.  There was                                                               
an instance where  a child was sent outside  for services because                                                               
the  IEP team  did  not  feel there  were  services available  in                                                               
Alaska.  The Anchorage School  District totally absorbed the cost                                                               
for that  education Outside.   The board  would be  interested in                                                               
discussing  a responsibility  for situations  like that  and hope                                                               
that there would  be at least some potential help  from the state                                                               
in  a situation  like  that.   She doesn't  have  wording for  an                                                               
amendment, but that is the concern in this area.                                                                                
MS.  OSSIANDER  referred  to  page   12,  Section  34,  "informed                                                               
consent."   She  specified (A),  which says  "fully informed"  in                                                               
talking  about  a  parent's  knowledge   situation.    She  would                                                               
appreciate some clarity  and further definition of  what it means                                                               
to be  sure that a  parent is  fully informed of  all information                                                               
relevant.   There is some  real potential for  district liability                                                               
if that is not fully done.                                                                                                      
Number 0848                                                                                                                     
MS. OSSIANDER  referred to page  13, Article 3A.   "Education for                                                               
Gifted  Children",  (f), lines  24-31,  where  it talks  about  a                                                               
parent's right to obtain an  independent evaluation if the parent                                                               
doesn't believe that  the district has done  a correct assessment                                                               
for his/her  child.   The concern is  the wording  "due process."                                                               
The board  would hope  to, at  least, discuss  an "administrative                                                               
appeal,"  which  is cheaper  for  the  district, it's  less  time                                                               
consuming, and there  is less burden of proof,  rather than going                                                               
immediately to due process.                                                                                                     
Number 0922                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE  PORTER   asked  Ms.  Ossiander  to   explain  the                                                               
difference  between an  administrative review  and a  due process                                                               
MS. OSSIANDER  answered that  to be accurate  on this,  she would                                                               
need  to refer  it to  the people  who do  it for  a living,  but                                                               
generally, she understands that a  due process hearing requires a                                                               
greater standard  of proof and  is a very formalized  process; an                                                               
administrative review is more informal.   Both have disinterested                                                               
and  impartial hearing  officers, but  one is  more similar  to a                                                               
litigation process, and  one is more of a discussion.   She noted                                                               
she could stand corrected on this.                                                                                              
Number 0980                                                                                                                     
MS. OSSIANDER  referred to page  14, line 17.   As each  child is                                                               
reviewed,  both for  special education  and gifted  children, the                                                               
team  has been  developing  an individualized  education plan  or                                                               
program  as  is listed  in  the  bill.    She wondered  what  the                                                               
department  had in  mind  with the  term used  in  (2), line  17,                                                               
"short-term instructional objectives."                                                                                          
MS. OSSIANDER  referred to page  15, lines  4-9, that refer  to a                                                               
term that is part of  federal special education law called "least                                                               
restrictive  environment."     The  board  members   support  and                                                               
understand this  term with  special education  students.   In the                                                               
arena of  gifted education, in  the board members'  minds, things                                                               
can  be  viewed  a  little  differently.    All  the  educational                                                               
research  they  have  seen  show  real  benefits  allowing  these                                                               
children to have classes together rather  than be at all times in                                                               
with all  their other  classmates.  There  is a  gifted education                                                               
program  in Anchorage,  offered at  the elementary  school called                                                               
the  "Ignite"  program,  where  children  are  taken  from  their                                                               
neighborhood  school one  day  a week  and  given special  gifted                                                               
education  services  at  a  neighborhood  school,  which  is  not                                                               
necessarily  their  own.   She  wondered  if Anchorage  would  be                                                               
precluded   from  offering   this   program   under  the   "least                                                               
restrictive environment."                                                                                                       
MS. OSSIANDER referred to page  17, [line 3], "Definitions".  The                                                               
specific  concern here  is item  (4), lines  15-16.   It includes                                                               
creative  talent  and  ability   in  the  definition  of  gifted.                                                               
Currently, Anchorage  does not offer gifted  services to children                                                               
who may  be creative musically  or artistically, and  the wording                                                               
in  this definition  appears to  include that.   On  line 16,  it                                                               
appears   that  gifted   children   will   be  determined   under                                                               
regulations  adopted by  the  department.   Currently,  districts                                                               
develop  their  own  plan  of delivery  of  services  for  gifted                                                               
children.   There has  been some  discrepancy among  districts in                                                               
the  past.   The  board  would very  much  like  to retain  local                                                               
control  and  hopes  to  continue  with  its  own  definition  of                                                               
Number 1160                                                                                                                     
MS.  OSSIANDER  said  it   was  interesting  that  transportation                                                               
delivery  of  gifted  students was  not  mentioned.    Currently,                                                               
gifted students  do qualify for transportation  to their delivery                                                               
site.  She  wondered if it is the department's  intent to do away                                                               
with that.   She is also  concerned about the change  Chair Bunde                                                               
mentioned  at  the  beginning  of   the  meeting  where  he  said                                                               
"transportation   service   for    special   education   students                                                               
additionally will  be provided  in a  different fashion  based on                                                               
IEP rather than identifying label."   She requested clarification                                                               
on those points.                                                                                                                
MS. OSSIANDER said the board is  pleased to see that this bill is                                                               
going through several  committees because it needs  a fair amount                                                               
of discussion and work prior to passage.                                                                                        
Number 1223                                                                                                                     
LOUISE PARISH  testified via teleconference.   She is  the parent                                                               
of  a  learning disabled  child  and  has  a number  of  concerns                                                               
regarding HB 71.  She read the following testimony:                                                                             
     Why  has the  department [Department  of Education  and                                                                    
     Early  Development]  completely   ignored  my  numerous                                                                    
     requests  to  change  the   word  language  to  speech-                                                                    
     language in  eligibility regulations, even  though IDEA                                                                    
     [Individuals with Disabilities  Education Act] uses the                                                                    
     term speech-language?   If  you go  to page  11, "child                                                                    
     with   a  disability"   at   line   24  reads   "speech                                                                    
     impairment."    I  have  commented  numerous  times  to                                                                    
     AkDEED  [Alaska  Department   of  Education  and  Early                                                                    
     Development] that  this needs to be  changed to speech-                                                                    
     language   impairment.     My   daughter  is   language                                                                    
     impaired.   IDEA discusses  speech-language impairment,                                                                    
     not  just speech  impairments.   I've complained  about                                                                    
     this to  people at  AkDEED, I've commented  formally on                                                                    
     their proposed regulation.   I see no change  in it and                                                                    
     this one  gross oversight, I believe,  cost my daughter                                                                    
     many  years  of  appropriate  services.   And  I  don't                                                                    
     understand at  all why  I have  been able  to pointedly                                                                    
     complain about  this and  have absolutely  nothing done                                                                    
     about it.   It gives me  the feeling and the  overall -                                                                    
     and  I  also  went  to   due  process  -  and  just  my                                                                    
     background  gives  me the  feeling  as  though many  of                                                                    
     these  statutes   and  regulations  are   just  written                                                                    
     without parent  input and that  often our  concerns are                                                                    
     simply  disregarded  and  forces us  into  a  situation                                                                    
     where it's  a brick  wall, and the  only way  to change                                                                    
     anything is  to take somebody  to court.  ...  It's bad                                                                    
     news.  I would hope that at least that gets fixed.                                                                         
     I asked  Dr. Johnson  why the department  never invited                                                                    
     regular  parents  to  participate  in  any  legislative                                                                    
     review of this  bill as it was constructed.   I felt we                                                                    
     were left out  of the picture.  Dr. Johnson  told me it                                                                    
     was because the  department didn't "have to."   He said                                                                    
     I could  react after  the bill  was constructed  to the                                                                    
     legislature.  ... Why does AkDEED exclude parents?                                                                         
     I  have  no  certainty  whatsoever that  this  bill  is                                                                    
     adequate  or appropriate  for  our kids.    I asked  Dr                                                                    
     Johnson  and the  state board  to  confer with  private                                                                    
     counsel in the construction  so that parents could feel                                                                    
     that their interests were represented.                                                                                     
     Has  the department  even conferred  as it  promised it                                                                    
     would do  with private counsel practicing  in this area                                                                    
     of law before  submitting this bill, and  if so, please                                                                    
     identify such private counsel?                                                                                             
     Why is it that AkDEED  never asked its hearing officers                                                                    
     for input or comment on  current or proposed state regs                                                                    
     or statutes?  That only makes sense to me.                                                                                 
     Why  has   the  department  refused  to   consider  the                                                                    
     proposal  to  set up  a  hearing  panel as  adopted  by                                                                    
     Why  does the  bill  fail to  state  Alaskan policy  on                                                                    
     exceptional children?   We should  make a  statement on                                                                    
     what we want to see for our kids; other states do.                                                                         
MS. PARISH said she has a number of other items that she will                                                                   
fax to the committee.  She requested that the committee ask the                                                                 
department and Dr. Johnson these questions.  She also read:                                                                     
     There seems to be  no Comprehensive System of Personnel                                                                    
     Development  statute.    There   seems,  just  from  my                                                                    
     limited  review of  IDEA 97,  to be  a number  of items                                                                    
     that  are  not  included  in this  statute  or  in  the                                                                    
     proposed regs.   I  don't like  that AkDEED  appears to                                                                    
     have no oversight in this  important legislation.  It's                                                                    
     almost as  though the bill  gets constructed,  and then                                                                    
     we  start  haggling  about the  minutiae  in  the  bill                                                                    
     without looking  at the big  picture of  what's missing                                                                    
     to begin with.                                                                                                             
     I'm  particularly concerned  because in  IDEA 97,  they                                                                    
     list  additional procedural  safeguards that  should be                                                                    
     written  into  statute.   These  additional  procedural                                                                    
     safeguards  help us  to be  sure that  kids are  tested                                                                    
     appropriately in  the evaluation process.   IDEA reads:                                                                    
     "for   teachers  to   ensure  testing   and  evaluation                                                                    
     materials and  procedures ... will  not be  racially or                                                                    
     culturally  discriminating  ...   no  single  procedure                                                                    
     shall  be   the  sole  criterion  for   determining  an                                                                    
     appropriate educational program."   Often our districts                                                                    
     use an IQ discrepancy  formula, regression formula, and                                                                    
     use this  for determining  whether a child  is eligible                                                                    
     or not.   This needs to  be written into statute  so it                                                                    
     is very clear that districts  can't use this measure to                                                                    
     exclude  kids.   The problem  often is  that kids  with                                                                    
     language  learning disabilities,  such as  my daughter,                                                                    
     may  be  tested  using   devices  that  detect  certain                                                                    
     disabilities,  which would  be  reading, and  therefore                                                                    
     provide  inappropriate data  for  determination of  her                                                                    
     The   no  CSPD   (Comprehensive  System   of  Personnel                                                                    
     Development) with no  additional procedural safeguards,                                                                    
     AkDEED  not  addressing  my request  to  add  the  word                                                                    
     language  to speech-language  impairment  gives me  the                                                                    
     overall  impression that  this  bill may  very well  be                                                                    
     extremely  inadequate,  and  I  would  like  a  private                                                                    
     lawyer to  who deals  with special education  to review                                                                    
     this.   I  attended a  legislative review  meeting that                                                                    
     was held at least at  AkDEED's behest for Parents Inc.,                                                                    
     DLC [Disability Law  Center], district representatives,                                                                    
     and  the   Governor's  Council  [on   Disabilities  and                                                                    
     Special Education],  but there were no  regular parents                                                                    
     that were represented  there....  It was  a listen only                                                                    
     type of review.  Parents  need to be informed about all                                                                    
     of this  and should  be in on  the construction  of the                                                                    
     bill and  hopefully what  will be  a number  of changes                                                                    
     that will improve this bill drastically.                                                                                   
CHAIR BUNDE told Ms. Parish that Dr. Johnson was at the meeting                                                                 
so has heard her questions directly.                                                                                            
Number 1577                                                                                                                     
GRETCHEN KEISER came forward to testify.  She read the following                                                                
     I  come today  as  a parent  of a  child  who has  been                                                                    
     determined to  be high-ability,  or gifted,  student in                                                                    
     our public school  system here in Juneau.  My  son is a                                                                    
     sophomore  here at  the high  school....   Personally I                                                                    
     have  spent a  considerable  time in  my son's  classes                                                                    
     over the years  in Juneau and have made  some effort to                                                                    
     educate myself about how you  go about educating gifted                                                                    
     As  a state,  we are  blessed with  approximately 6,200                                                                    
     gifted kids  from Ketchikan, Kodiak, Kaktovik.   That's                                                                    
     approximately  5  percent  of our  student  population.                                                                    
     That's a lot  of children.  If you  place them together                                                                    
     that would rank as about  our eighth largest city, just                                                                    
     behind Kodiak  in population, or  as our  fifth largest                                                                    
     school district, ahead of Juneau in size.                                                                                  
     I  want   to  speak  briefly  about   educating  gifted                                                                    
     children  -- is  one piece  within the  broad array  of                                                                    
     efforts we're undertaking ... for  a number of years to                                                                    
     improve  educational   standards,  increase   and  test                                                                    
     competencies, and  basically graduate children  who are                                                                    
     ready and  able to tackle  life's challenges.   I would                                                                    
     like to  suggest some  changes to  the language  of one                                                                    
     section of HB 71 because  I believe it may more closely                                                                    
     match the educational needs of gifted kids.                                                                                
     There are a variety of  ways schools can meet the needs                                                                    
     of gifted  children.   In some  circumstances, children                                                                    
     can be  accelerated through promoting them:   just move                                                                    
     them up  a grade, and  they're ready  to move.   Or you                                                                    
     can have  a classroom of  gifted children who  can zoom                                                                    
     through the equivalent of two  years of material in one                                                                    
     year by  ... compressing the curriculum.   For example,                                                                    
     rather   than  spending   three   days  going   through                                                                    
     repetitive math  problems on a particular  topic, these                                                                    
     kids are ready  to move on to new material  on day two.                                                                    
     In another  instance, a group  of gifted  children from                                                                    
     one class  can pull out  to the library to  do research                                                                    
     or  discuss books  by  an author  the  whole class  has                                                                    
     read, and then they could  actually move on and write a                                                                    
     play or their own short story based on the reading.                                                                        
     The  common  thread  here is  an  enriched  educational                                                                    
     approach  that matches  and stimulates  the ability  of                                                                    
     the gifted  kids....   One point to  make is  we're not                                                                    
     necessarily  talking about  more  services provided  to                                                                    
     these  children  than other  students.    I think  what                                                                    
     we're really  talking about  are different  services, a                                                                    
     different  educational method  and pace,  appropriately                                                                    
     advanced  materials, and  a modified  classroom setting                                                                    
     in some circumstances.                                                                                                     
     Why should we worry  about special education for gifted                                                                    
     kids?   Won't  they be  okay anyway?   What  happens to                                                                    
     these kids if they don't get some special services?                                                                        
     Gifted   kids  who   do  not   receive  the   necessary                                                                    
     enrichment become  bored, frustrated,  discouraged, and                                                                    
     even angry.   To  have ability, to  feel power  you are                                                                    
     never  allowed to  use, can  be traumatic  for some  of                                                                    
     these  children.   You end  up with  social discontents                                                                    
     and   acting-out  behavior   in  the   class  in   some                                                                    
     circumstances.   An article I  read recently  said many                                                                    
     researchers consider  the gifted  as the  largest group                                                                    
     of  underachievers  in  the American  education  system                                                                    
     On  the other  hand, bright  kids who  are never  truly                                                                    
     challenged  find  schoolwork  easy and  quite  frankly,                                                                    
     some  of  them  develop   an  inflated  view  of  their                                                                    
     abilities,  which  can   interfere  with  their  future                                                                    
     education or their employability down the road.                                                                            
     I draw your attention to HB  71 the section on page 15.                                                                    
     The  first  speaker this  morning  ...  spoke to  this,                                                                    
     beginning on  line 4, the  section which  is identified                                                                    
     as the  "least restrictive  environment."  I  have some                                                                    
     difficulties  with  this   prescription  of  the  least                                                                    
     restricted environment  for gifted children.   Now this                                                                    
     virtually identical  language is also in  place earlier                                                                    
     in the  bill under  the section  for the  children with                                                                    
     We  have  made  an important  educational  decision  to                                                                    
     integrate  children  with  disabilities into  the  main                                                                    
     classroom  as  a  way  to   help  them  maximize  their                                                                    
     potential through interaction with  other children.  In                                                                    
     this  sense, it  is the  least restrictive  environment                                                                    
     for  those children,  particularly  given  some of  the                                                                    
     alternatives in the past.                                                                                                  
     However, common  sense suggests that the  same does not                                                                    
     hold for gifted  children in a regular  classroom.  The                                                                    
     least  restrictive environment  for these  children, by                                                                    
     and  large,  would  be an  accelerated  classroom,  ...                                                                    
     differentiated curriculum  ... more  advanced material,                                                                    
     small  group  setting  with  their  ability  peers,  or                                                                    
     individualized learning on their own.                                                                                      
     From my personal  experience, mainstreaming gifted kids                                                                    
     ...   for  "education   in   regular  classrooms   with                                                                    
     supplementary  aids   and  services"   typically  means                                                                    
     isolating one or two kids  in a given classroom in what                                                                    
     is equivalent  to an intellectual straitjacket.   There                                                                    
     are  not enough  kids in  any one  of these  classes to                                                                    
     reach the  critical mass ...  you don't have  enough of                                                                    
     them to  work together or  feed off each  other's quick                                                                    
     learning.    I also  think,  actually,  using the  word                                                                    
     regular  classroom  ...  we   may  be  seeing  that  as                                                                    
     somewhat of an obsolete ... term at this point.                                                                            
     As the  results of  our benchmark tests  and qualifying                                                                    
     exams begin  to convulse through our  school districts,                                                                    
     we are in fact defining  two groups of children:  those                                                                    
     who  lack proficiency  on material  and  those who  are                                                                    
     proficient and  ready to move  on.  In this  context, I                                                                    
     think "regular classroom" has  become obsolete.  What's                                                                    
     regular?  If more than  50 percent of the third graders                                                                    
     are  proficient in  writing, do  these kids  make up  a                                                                    
     "regular  class" while  additional remedial  efforts in                                                                    
     special  classes are  directed at  the other  children?                                                                    
     Alternatively,  if 60  percent  of  the eighth  graders                                                                    
     lack  proficiency  in  math,  do  they  constitute  the                                                                    
     "regular  classroom"  while   the  fewer  students  are                                                                    
     proficient move  forward?   I think  we really  need to                                                                    
     look at that language and maybe step back from it.                                                                         
MS. KEISER provided copies to the committee of some language she                                                                
came up with dealing with the least restrictive environment.                                                                    
CHAIR BUNDE  said there are  obviously a  lot of questions  on HB
71.  He  remanded the bill back to the  department and asked that                                                               
it  work  with  the  questions  that have  come  up  from  school                                                               
districts,  parents,  and  Mr. Briggs  from  the  Disability  Law                                                               
Center and bring it back to  the committee with as much agreement                                                               
as they can achieve.  [HB 71 was heard and held.]                                                                               

Document Name Date/Time Subjects