Legislature(2001 - 2002)
04/11/2001 08:07 AM EDU
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HB 71-EDUC. OF DISABLED OR GIFTED CHILDREN CHAIR BUNDE announced that the first order of business would be 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." Number 0127 BRUCE JOHNSON, Deputy Commissioner of Education, Office of the Commissioner, Department of Education and Early Development (EED), came forward and stated that [the EED] held a statewide teleconference on March 14 with several GT (gifted and talented) constituents, including parents, advocates, teachers, and directors. After some significant discussion on what was before the legislature, [the EED] has offered three amendments. He explained that the first [amendment] has to do with least restrictive environment. People had been concerned that GT students could not be grouped together without age-appropriate peers. [The EED's] intent previously was that the least restrictive environment language in the bill did not preclude that; however, since there has been concern, [the EED] believes it makes sense to delete that section. MR. JOHNSON explained that the second [amendment] has to do with reimbursement for the transportation of gifted children. [Alaska] has been providing transportation for GT students for a long period of time. He stated that the only reason [the EED] has left [this language] out is to bring this issue before the public for discussion. There is a lot of concern about the increased cost for student transportation; however, he explained that this [provision] is very discretionary in terms of how the state deals with it. Clearly, he said, GT parents and advocates of GT feel that this is a very important piece for them to continue in order to serve GT students. MR. JOHNSON, said, the last [amendment] has to do with due process hearings. [The EED] does not have federal dollars; therefore, there is not an incremental approach to settling disputes involving GT. He added that in discussions on March 14, individuals felt that they would like to have mediation built in, since all complaint remedy is at the district's expense anyway. [The EED] has added mandatory mediation, which is a more positive and proactive approach. Therefore, if a parent of a GT student requests a due process hearing, it would automatically "kick in" to a mandatory mediation. If it wasn't resolved there, he stated, the parents could continue to pursue it through the due process. MR. JOHNSON added that one other amendment [the EED] is suggesting is on page 11, line 24, which talks about the identification of various categories of children with disabilities. He stated that there was "speech impairment" and now [the EED] has agreed to bring that to "speech or language impairment". Number 0507 REPRESENTATIVE JOULE made a motion to adopt Amendment 1, which read [original punctuation and capitalization included]: Page 15, 4-9 Delete: [SEC. 14.30.355. LEAST RESTRICTIVE ENVIRONMENT. EACH SCHOOL DISTRICT SHALL ENSURE THAT TO THE MAXIMUM EXTENT APPROPRIATE, GIFTED CHILDREN ARE EDUCATED WITH CHILDREN WHO ARE NOT GIFTED AND THAT SPECIAL CLASSES, SEPARATE SCHOOLING, OR OTHER REMOVAL OF GIFTED CHILDREN FROM THE REGULAR EDUCATIONAL ENVIRONMENT OCCURS ONLY WHEN EDUCATION IN REGULAR CLASSES WITH THE USE OF SUPPLEMENTARY AIDS AND SERVICES CANNOT BE ACHIEVED SATISFACTORILY.] Insert: Sec. 14.30.355. Reimbursement for transportation of gifted children. State reimbursement for transportation of gifted children shall be provided as for transportation of all other pupils except that eligibility for reimbursement is not limited to transportation to and from the child's residence to the school but shal [sic] also include transportation between schools and other locations of instruction as required by the child's individualized gifted education program. This amendment removes all "least restrictive environment" language as it pertains to gifted/talented students, and adds in a provision for the transportation of gifted/talented students. This transportation is currently reimbursed, so to not add it back in means taking away a service that is currently provided for those students. This amendment does not affect the fiscal note. CHAIR BUNDE objected for discussion purposes. REPRESENTATIVE JOULE stated that in public testimony [the committee] heard from parents who feel that their gifted and talented children really benefit from the ability to have the "pullouts." He remarked that Allison Brumner (ph), a [student], he wanted to testify on this point that she wished to continue to have this environment. This amendment, he explained, would delete that language and then insert in its place the language on transportation. CHAIR DYSON stated that he sees some irony in this. There was the thrust for mainstreaming special-education kids, but now "we" want to make sure that gifted kids aren't like the mainstream. He asked Mr. Johnson if he sees the same irony. Number 0646 MR. JOHNSON responded that these are two different populations. Role modeling that can occur in a regular classroom makes a huge difference in the lives of children with disabilities. He stated that there are people who feel that the right way to serve GT kids is in a pullout environment with like students. Whether that is full-day or partial-day varies all over the state. For example, in Anchorage there is a full-day program for the brightest students, as measured by their IQs, and there are several other layers of programs. Some children are served at their neighborhood schools in a pullout program. He added that it is not widespread across the state for kids to be served without their age-appropriate peers since most communities are not large enough to do this. CHAIR BUNDE stated that if students were pulled out on a full- time basis, it would deprive the average student of that same leadership role modeling that is so valuable for special- education kids. He pointed out that when all of the gifted students are together there is a "pecking order." REPRESENTATIVE PORTER remarked that he could speak for a half an hour about why he doesn't like this amendment. However, he said once these folks figure out how to fund these programs of "extra special treatment" he will support it. REPRESENTATIVE JOULE noted that he has five children on both ends of the spectrum: special education and GT. There were pullouts [for the special-education kids] to address the areas in which they needed help. These were not all day long. On the gifted and talented spectrum, he said, it was basically the same thing. He shared that the experience the children in gifted and talented had was structured in such a way that they had the benefit of the regular classroom for most of the day at school, as well as time with other individuals who were pulled out of class. Overall, he said, he thinks it served a very good purpose. CHAIR BUNDE suggested that his comments are just a caution that there should be minimum pullout. REPRESENTATIVE JOULE added that there is another bill that may be used as a vehicle for gifted students within charter schools. He suggested that if that moves forward that might take care of some of these issues. Number 0980 A roll call vote was taken. Representatives Stevens, Joule, Guess, and Bunde voted in favor of Amendment 1. Representatives Porter and Green voted against it. [Representative Wilson was absent.] Therefore, Amendment 1 was adopted by a vote of 4-2. Number 0991 REPRESENTATIVE JOULE made a motion to adopt Amendment 2, which read [original punctuation and capitalization included]: Page 15, line 31, through page 16, line 6: Delete current text and replace with the following: (b) If a due process hearing is requested by either a parent or the school district, the district shall appoint a trained, impartial mediator to administer a mediation process in an attempt to resolve the disputes between the parents and the district. The mediator may not be an employee of the district and must not have a personal or professional conflict of interest in the matter in dispute. The district shall bear the costs of the mediation process. (c) If the mediation process required in (b) of this section does not resolve all of the issues raised in the request for a due process hearing provided under (a) of this subsection, the school district shall contact the department to request appointment of an available hearing officer. The department shall select a hearing officer through a random selection process, from a list maintained by the department. Within five working days after receipt of the request for appointment of a hearing officer, the department shall provide to the district and the parent a notice of appointment, including the name, and a statement of qualifications, of the hearing officer that the department determines is available to conduct the hearing. Page 16, line 7: Change "(c)" to "(d)" Page 16, line 16: Change "(d)" to "(e)" Page 16, line 26: Change "(e)" to "(f)" This amendment adds in a requirement of mediation prior to a dispute going to a hearing officer. Medication is far less expensive, and is often a more positive route for resolution of conflicts. The cost of settling disputes is handled by the district currently, so this does not impose an unfunded mandate. In fact, changing the bill lowers the cost of handling disputes for gifted/talented children, for districts. CHAIR BUNDE objected for discussion purposes. REPRESENTATIVE JOULE explained that this addresses the issue of due process. CHAIR BUNDE stated that he thinks the idea of mediation being required is something that could strengthen the process. He removed his objection. He announced that there being no further objection, Amendment 2 was adopted. Number 1040 REPRESENTATIVE JOULE made a motion to adopt Amendment 3, which read [original punctuation and capitalization included]: Page 11, line 24 Change to: (I) speech or language impairment; This is an amendment requested by the Department and pertains to identification of Special Education students. REPRESENTATIVE GREEN objected. He asked how impaired a "language impairment" is. For example, if someone hasn't been in the country very long and understands what's going on but may not be able to communicate freely, would that be language impairment? CHAIR BUNDE stated that this is not a second language but how [a student] is doing in the English language. He said there are age-appropriate parameters. He added that the dichotomy of speech is, "How do you pronounce the words?" Language is, "How do you use the words to achieve your needs?" GREG MALONEY, Director, Special Education, Department of Education and Early Development, came forth and stated that the assessment process is designed to exclude language [problems] related to bilingual issues or other languages used that may mask a real language deficit. He explained that it is more of an internal process of how a person processes language. He added that many people have interpreted speech impairment to primarily mean articulation; however, language is a broader category of how somebody expresses language as well as receives language. He clarified that this is in line with IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) 97s, federal language regarding speech or language impairments, but it does specifically talk to excluding other languages. Number 1184 REPRESENTATIVE GREEN stated that it is not a [language] issue if a person has trouble pronouncing, but if a person can't put a sentence together to get his or her idea across or interpret what is said, it is. He asked, if he were a second-language person, whether the interpreting would be a problem. MR. MALONEY responded that it would be more the person's ability. Primarily the assessment in English is where the special education would come in. He explained that if a person is having trouble enunciating and the assessment indicates that it is not an accent problem, then that would not be an impediment. If somebody has an articulation problem whereby he or she may slur some of the letters or have a structural problem with pronouncing certain letters, that can be remediated through therapy; that could be a disability. He added that it is not a science but that the assessment is designed to exclude non- disability types of situations. REPRESENTATIVE GREEN asked if this would include speech [impairment]. MR. MALONEY answered yes. He clarified that [with the amendment] the services would be the same; it's more of a technical change to make sure everybody knows that it covers both speech and language. CHAIR BUNDE stated that the (indisc.) authority of speech therapy includes a list; however, there isn't a bright line that says, "This is just a speech problem; this is a language problem." There are people who have language problems who can also have articulation problems. However, he said, the language problem is much more global and far more debilitating than, for example, someone having a lisp. MR. MALONEY added that frequently language [impairment] is also tied in to someone having a learning disability. Therefore, it is a more global kind of processing deficit. Number 1308 REPRESENTATIVE GREEN removed his objection. CHAIR BUNDE remarked that he is sure that there are many people who would strongly object to being placed under an IEP simply because English was their second language. He announced that there being no further objection, Amendment 3 was adopted. MR. JOHNSON asked if, when [the committee] adopted Amendment 1, which deleted the least restrictive environment language, the reimbursement for transportation [language] was inserted. CHAIR BUNDE answered yes. He asked what the fiscal impact of Amendment 1 would be. MR. JOHNSON responded that [the EED] is currently doing this; therefore, it is not included as a fiscal note. Number 1367 REPRESENTATIVE PORTER stated that he hopes [the House Finance Committee] takes a serious look at that particular inclusion, which he said he would categorize as a "black hole." CHAIR BUNDE stated that he has mixed feelings about the bill; however, there is testimony from [the EED] that it is not something that has to be done right away. Number 1450 REPRESENTATIVE JOULE made a motion to move HB 71, as amended, from committee with individual recommendations and attached fiscal notes. There being no objection, CSHB 71(EDU) was moved from the House Special Committee on Education.