Legislature(1993 - 1994)
04/19/1993 09:22 AM STA
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
The meeting of the Senate State Affairs Committee was called to order by Chairman Loren Leman at 9:22 a.m. SENATOR LEMAN brought CSHB 235(FIN) (SPECIAL EDUCATION & RELATED SERVICES) before the committee as the only order of business. He noted Anchorage, Fairbanks, Ketchikan and Nenana would be participating in the meeting via the teleconference network. He then invited Myra Howe and Chris Niemi of the Department of Education to join the committee at the table. Number 040 SENATOR LEMAN directed attention to four proposed amendments. Amendment No. 1 is a conceptual amendment providing the right to counsel for indigent parents. Amendment No. 2 provides that children in nonpublic schools have the right to the services, but they are not required to receive those services. Amendment No. 3 relates to hearing officers and the methodology for preparing a list and maintaining it and examinations. Number 060 MYRA HOWE, Director of Special Education, addressing subsection (i) in Amendment No. 3, related that currently the department doesn't have an examination. They hire a national trainer from Washington, D.C. who does two days of training. They have maintained a list of 12 hearing officers, which they do by taking applications, and when they have completed the training, they are considered to be qualified to serve as hearing officers. CHRIS NIEMI added that currently, the hearing officers are located in Southeast Alaska, Fairbanks and Anchorage. She outlined the process for training these hearing officers, saying it does involve considerable cost to the state to train hearing officers. She added that in the last ten years, the department has had two training sessions. SENATOR LEMAN suggested changing the amendment to say that the department shall qualify hearing officers by completion of training which shall be open to all residents of the state, and this qualification for a period not to exceed five years. He said this would be consistent with the department's current practice. MYRA HOWE referred to the second part of Amendment No. 3 which provides that the costs for an appeal will be paid for by the school district, and she related that the appeal currently is paid for the Department of Education. SENATOR LEMAN suggested staying with the current policy. MS HOWE also pointed out that in the State of Missouri, they set a certain number of choices for a hearing officer that the district and the parent can agree on. She suggested limiting it to three choices. CHRIS NIEMI suggested saying that the parent and the district would need to agree to one of the first three of the available hearing officers, because occasionally someone will not be available. Number 220 SENATOR LEMAN directed attention to Amendment #4, which relates to selecting a person to conduct an independent evaluation. MYRA HOWE clarified the process they have in place right now. The way the amendment reads, she is concerned about the costs it is going to incur to the districts to fly all over getting evaluations if there is someone closer by who is equally qualified. She suggested limiting it by changing the language to provide that the person must be someone mutually agreed to by the district and the parent. Number 258 MARC GROBER, testifying from Nenana, spoke against changing the amendment, saying there should not be any limitation to any list because he thinks the districts have done a poor job in maintaining the statutorily mandated lists. He suggested leaving the amendment in its current form. Number 325 MARC GROBER stated he has a problem with Amendment No. 1, saying it doesn't resolve the immediate concern that a parent needs counsel when the issues first arise, because having a review on a record that is incomplete or inappropriate is not going to help anybody. He suggested that to make it work, to afford the indigent parents counsel at the hearing level, or instead of having a shadow process to use the real court system for the initial hearing. VINCE BERRY, Department of Education, said his fear that it could possibly create endless involvements on relatively minor issues. He noted that over the past ten years there have only been 12 to 14 cases. Number 353 BUD MARTIN, Ketchikan School District, testifying from Ketchikan, said he thought the whole purpose of this was to get parents and the school district together to try and work out a solution, as opposed to hiring two attorneys going at each other. MARC GROBER countered that by the time the due process hearing is requested, that kind of "lets get together and resolve the problem" scenario has not worked. He added that if there have been only 12 cases in the last ten years, there shouldn't be a whole lot of money that is involved. Number 398 SENATOR MILLER moved the adoption of the following conceptual Amendment No. 1: "Conceptual" Amendment: Make clear in statute that indigent parents have the right to state appointed counsel during the court appellate review process if the parents appeal under AS 14.30.193(g) Hearing no objection, Amendment No. 1 was adopted. Number 400 SENATOR MILLER moved the adoption of the following Amendment No. 2: Page l, line 12: Add a new Section 2 to read: AS 14.30.186 is amended to read: (e) nonpublic school children have the right to public agency services under AS 14.30.180 - AS 14.30.350. A parent who elects to educate their exceptional child in a nonpublic education program in accordance with AS 14.30.010(b) shall not be compelled to receive srvices under AS 14.30.180 - AS 14.30.350. Hearing no objection, Amendment No 2 was adopted. Number 405 SENATOR MILLER moved the adoption of a conceptual Amendment No. 3. PORTIA BABCOCK, staff to the Senate State Affairs Committee outlined a conceptual Amendment No. 3 as follows: Page 3, line 16: Add new subsections to read: (h) The department shall maintain a list of qualified hearing officers. The department shall qualify hearing officers through a training program, which shall be open to all residents of the state and shall qualify hearing officers for a period not to exceed five years. The list shall be maintained as public record. (i) The parent involved in the hearing must consent in writing to the hearing officer selected among the first three hearing officers considered. Hearing no objection, the conceptual Amendment No. 3 was adopted. Number 422 SENATOR MILLER moved the adoption of the following Amendment No. 4: Page 4, line 8: Following "to obtain an independent evaluation" insert "by a person of the parent's choosing or by agreement between the parent and school district." Page 4, line 27: Following "who receives services" insert "or whose parent requests services" Page 5, line 16: Following "to teach the child at home" insert "in accordance with AS 14.30.010(b)" Hearing no objection, Amendment No. 4 was adopted. There being no further discussion on HB 235, SENATOR LEMAN asked for the pleasure of the committee. Number 425 SENATOR MILLER moved that SCS CSHB 235(STA), as amended, be passed out of committee with individual recommendations. Hearing no objection, it was so ordered.