Legislature(1993 - 1994)
04/14/1993 09:10 AM STA
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
SENATOR LEMAN introduced CSHB 235(FIN) (SPECIAL EDUCATION & RELATED SERVICES) as the first order of business. MYRA HOWE, State Director of Special Education, Department of Education, explained the primary purpose of the legislation is to come into compliance with new federal requirements, as well as some cleanup language that the Department of Law has suggested. Ms. Howe outlined the following sections which bring the state into compliance with the federal law. Section 8 of the bill allows the school district to take a parent to due process hearing for denial of initial consent for evaluation of placement. Sections 11 and 20 deal with the definition of "consent." Section 22 adds "rehabilitation services" to the definition of "related services." Section 24 adds autism and traumatic brain injury as new disability categories. It is also a definition of "educational records." Number 100 DENNIS WETHERELL, testifying from Anchorage via the teleconference network, said he was present as the concerned parent of a gifted child. Mr. Wetherell said he has had an opportunity to look at the federal statutes, and he questioned whether HB 235 actually complies with federal law at all in the areas in which it is intended to comply. Mr. Wetherell voiced concern with the gifted education provision in the bill. He said he does not see the connection between the provisions of the bill which pertain to gifted education and compliance of disabilities law. Mr. Wetherell's concern stems from previous and ongoing actions by the Department of Education. HB 235 is identical in wording to HB 419, which was introduced last year at the request of the Department of Education and would have eliminated any reference to gifted education from state law, except that in a few places the clause "and gifted child" has been inserted in an effort to placate parents and educators of the gifted. DOE has also has had legislation introduced this year which would reduce funding for gifted education 40 percent and separates gifted education from special education for funding purposes. Mr. Wetherell contended that DOE's goal is to get out of gifted education and turn all aspects of the program over to local school boards. Throughout the United States where such actions have been taken, the effect has been to virtually eliminate gifted education except in a few scattered districts. Mr. Wetherell does not believe that existing state law is strong enough with respect to gifted education, and that HB 235 weakens state law with respect to gifted education. Mr. Wetherell outlined three amendments he recommends be made to HB 235: (1) a new paragraph added to AS 14.30.278 which requires an IEP to be reviewed or revised on at least an annual basis, or upon reasonable request of the amendment; (2) an amendment which requires each school district to develop a plan of service for every category of exceptional child served; and (3) amending Section 24, paragraph (9) to read: "gifted children mean children who exhibit outstanding intellect, ability, or creative talent, as determined, using methods of evaluation and eligibility thresholds defined under regulations adopted by the department." Number 185 MARC GROBER, testifying from Nenana via the teleconference network, said he had submitted a point by point sectional analysis of all the problems included in HB 235, as well as other information to the committee. Mr. Grober presented a brief history of HB 235, which he said has been introduced in almost identical form during two previous legislatures, but was killed in committee on both occasions because every parent who was allowed an opportunity to testify on the bills testified against them. He contended that there was limited opportunity to testify on HB 235 in the House. Mr. Grober said HB 235 is not an appropriate vehicle to discuss gifted education. He said if the Department of Education is being truthful and really only wants to secure funding from the federal DOE, then he thinks it is appropriate to essentially remove all the portions of HB 235 that have to do with gifted education until gifted education can be addressed from educational standpoints as the rest of the state's special education issues. Mr. Grober said HB 235 is poorly drafted and he has submitted a draft committee substitute which addressees the alleged demands of DOE as far as securing funding without addressing the problems of gifted education, without denying parents of due process and without the so-called caretaking changes which have been undocumented and unsupported. He noted the Governor's Council has not endorsed HB 235, nor has any parent organization endorsed the bill. Number 322 SENATOR LEMAN asked for a motion to adopt a proposed committee substitute. SENATOR MILLER moved that SCS CSHB 235(STA) be adopted. Hearing no objection, the Chair stated the motion had carried. SENATOR LEMAN stated HB 235 would be set aside momentarily so that the committee could take action on another piece of legislation. SENATOR LEMAN brought HB 235 back before the committee. He then asked Rhonda Weiss, an attorney in Washington, D.C., what the minimum is that the State of Alaska has to do to meet the deadline to come into compliance with federal law and not lose funding. RHONDA WEISS of the U.S. Department of Education in Washington, D.C., responded that in order to receive the Part B grant award for this fiscal year, Alaska is required to submit a Part B state plan that meets the requirements of the individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), Sections 612 & 613 and the department's implementing regulations in 34 C.F.R., Part 300. Ms. Weiss said for two prior years, Alaska has provided assurances to U.S. DOE that certain statutory and/or regulatory changes would be made to satisfy all applicable federal requirements. The purpose of the current legislative action is to ensure that these assurances are met in connection with the department's conditional approval of Alaska's Part B grant. Number 423 MS JENZANO, U.S. DOE state contact person for the State of Alaska, testifying from Washington, D.C., referred to subsection (e) on page 3, lines 16 and 17 of CSHB 235(FIN) and said it was their understanding that there was an amendment to have that section deleted and having three new subsections inserted. She stated they would have a problem with that being deleted from the statute because it is a federal regulatory requirement, as well as having a problem with the proposed new subsections. The department also has concern with subsection (b) on page 4, line 2, and suggests that "federal" be incorporated into that sentence. Number 470 SENATOR LEMAN referred to subsection (e) on page 3, lines 16 and 17, relating to the hearing officer's decision, and the new subsections (f), (g) and (h) and said it is his understanding that those terms came from Oregon statutes. He asked if Oregon was out of compliance because they have those provisions in their law. RHONDA WEISS answered that they couldn't comment on it until they have reviewed Oregon's law, but that in a direct review of this information, it does not meet the regulatory and statutory requirements. Ms. Weiss also added that their concern with the proposed statutory language is that it combines the consent provision with the hearing officer's decision and confuses the subjective consent provision, in essence, for a party's right to appeal a hearing officer's decision if they disagree with that decision. Number 515 WILLIE ANDERSON, representing NEA-Alaska, stated he was testifying in support of the earlier version of HB 235 that dealt with the funding for special education. Mr. Anderson stated NEA-Alaska does not have problems with the "gifted" language, because it is their opinion that it meets the need to have gifted education funded by the state. However, they want to make sure that the state doesn't lose $8 million in terms of federal funding for the schools. Mr. Anderson urged that the committee make minimum amendments to the legislation and/or go back to the House version of the bill. Number 535 JANICE LEVY, representing the Department of Law, said the crux of the problem and the difficulty for Alaska is that the federal regulations and the federal code do require that there be a vehicle for overriding parental consent and that's the difficult issue. She said the procedure that was suggested in HB 235 that she reviewed a couple of weeks ago would have met that requirement. She noted that procedure does allow for eventually appealing to the level of the Superior Court. TAPE 93-27, SIDE B Number 001 JACK PHELPS, President of the Alaska Private and Home Educators Association, said their concern is two-fold. They believe it's important for the state to protect its federal dollars, but at the same time, they want to ensure that parents are not put at a disadvantage in terms of making decisions that will affect the lives of their own children. Mr. Phelps said he does not think that changing subsection (g) on page 3 to make the hearing officer's decision binding necessitates the removal of subsections (e) and (f). Mr. Phelps suggested that perhaps a mediatory procedure that would happen before it went to a hearing officer could be written into the bill, and he said that may be able to solve some of these conflicts between districts and parents at an earlier stage and in a less confrontational manner. Number 048 SENATOR LEMAN said HB 235 would be held over for the April 19 meeting. He then adjourned the meeting at 10:00 a.m.