Legislature(1993 - 1994)
03/29/1993 08:35 AM FIN
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HOUSE BILL NO. 235 "An Act relating to educational programs and services for children with disabilities and other exceptional children and to persons with a handicap; and providing for an effective date." Co-Chair Larson noted that members had received a letter from Marc Grober, Attorney addressing concerns regarding HB 235 (Attachment 2). MYRA HOWE, DIRECTOR, SPECIAL EDUCATION, DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION presented the members with a written response to Mr. Grober's concerns (Attachment 3). She explained that 5 the State is required to submit an annual plan describing how Alaska will serve exceptional children. The State has received conditional approval of their FY 92 - 94 plan. Statutory and regulatory changes are needed to bring the state into compliance with federal law. The State will lose $8.3 million federal dollars if compliance is not met. Ms. Howe referred to section 8. She noted that the Department must allow for a parent hearing upon denial for placement of a child in special education services. (Tape Change, HFC 93-78, Side 2) Ms. Howe reviewed HB 235. She noted that in section 21, rehabilitation services is added to the definition of related services. Section 23 adds two new categories of autism and traumatic brain injury. The definition of education records has been expanded. Other changes have clarify language to assure clearer authority of the Department of Education. Co-Chair Larson provided members with Amendment 1: "Each school district shall develop an individualized education program for every exceptional child" (Attachment 4). Ms. Howe clarified, in response to a question from Co-Chair MacLean, that there is no federal requirement for a three year reevaluation of students. The Department has opted for a three year review to reestablish eligibility. If a child upon reevaluation is found to no longer meet the criteria they will be allowed to finish their current program. Representative Martin noted the costs associated with keeping exceptional children at a high level. He asked how the cost of evaluation compares to the cost of the programs. Ms. Howe could not answer. She noted that there is an annual evaluation requirement. Representative Grussendorf questioned the use of "shall" vs. "may" in Amendment 1. Ms. Howe replied that school districts could create a criteria so high as to not have any "gifted" students. Co-Chair Larson reiterated Representative Grussendorf's question regarding the use of "shall". Ms. Howe stressed that regulation already requires that each school district have a program for exceptional children. Ms. Howe explained, in response to a question by Representative Parnell, that the school districts submit plans for their programs to the Department of Education. The general standard is for IQ's of 130 and above. 6 Representative Grussendorf expressed the opinion that IQ tests are culturally biased. WILLY ANDERSON, NEA-ALASKA expressed support for HB 235. He stressed that the State will lose $8.3 million dollars in federal funds if HB 235 is not adopted. Representative Martin complained that "exceptional" children programs can be misused by school districts. Co-Chair Larson noted that the only opposition to HB 235 was based on the fear that gifted and talented programs which are provided for in regulation may be discontinued. He explained that Amendment 1 would guarantee that programs are continued. Co-Chair Larson MOVED to ADOPT, Amendment 1. Representative Martin questioned the use of "every" exceptional child. He felt that there would be an increase cost to the State. Ms. Howe clarified that Amendment 1 would not change current practice. She noted that "gifted children" is defined by each school district. Representative Martin noted that "gifted" and "talented" are defined in HB 235. Representative Martin OBJECTED to Amendment 1. A roll call vote was taken on the motion. IN FAVOR: Navarre, Parnell, Foster, Larson, MacLean OPPOSED: Martin, Grussendorf, Hanley Representatives Therriault, Brown and Hoffman were absent from the vote. The MOTION PASSED (5-3). Representative Hanley noted that the definition of "gifted and talented" children does not include all the previous categories. Ms. Howe explained that the Department was advised by the Department of Law to not include each specific category in statute. The Department of Law advised that it would be better to address specific requirements through regulations. Representative Grussendorf expressed concern that parents "brow beat" school districts to allow their children in the gifted and talented programs. Representative Martin agreed. Co-Chair MacLean MOVED to report CSHB 235 (FIN) out of Committee with individual recommendations and with the accompanying fiscal note. There being NO OBJECTION, it was so ordered. 7 CSHB 235 was reported out of Committee with "no recommendation" and with a zero fiscal note by the Department of Education, dated 3/24/93.