Legislature(1999 - 2000)
04/14/2000 01:28 PM HES
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
SENATE HEALTH, EDUCATION AND SOCIAL SERVICES COMMITTEE April 14, 2000 1:28 p.m. MEMBERS PRESENT Senator Mike Miller, Chairman Senator Gary Wilken Senator Kim Elton MEMBERS ABSENT Senator Pete Kelly, Vice-Chairman Senator Drue Pearce COMMITTEE CALENDAR SENATE BILL NO. 205 "An Act relating to the education of exceptional children; and providing for an effective date." -HEARD AND HELD CS FOR HOUSE BILL NO. 392(HES) "An Act relating to continuances for temporary custody hearings that follow emergency custody of a child; and amending Rule 10, Alaska Child in Need of Aid Rules." -SCHEDULED BUT NOT HEARD CS FOR HOUSE BILL NO. 253(JUD) "An Act relating to a school disciplinary and safety program; and providing for an effective date." -SCHEDULED BUT NOT HEARD CS FOR HOUSE BILL NO. 277(FIN) "An Act relating to payment of retirement benefits for certain subsequently reemployed retired members of the teachers' retirement system; and providing for an effective date." -SCHEDULED BUT NOT HEARD CS FOR HOUSE BILL NO. 346(HES) "An Act requiring the Department of Health and Social Services to establish a waiting list for state-funded services for persons with developmental disabilities and requiring the department to submit an annual report concerning the waiting list and persons with developmental disabilities." -SCHEDULED BUT NOT HEARD PREVIOUS SENATE COMMITTEE ACTION SB 205 - See HESS minutes dated 4/12/00. WITNESS REGISTER Ms. Joan D'Angeli Juneau, Alaska POSITION STATEMENT: Supports SB 205 and suggested amendments. Ms. Faye Nieto, Director Parents, Inc. Anchorage, AK POSITION STATEMENT: Supports SB 205. Ms. Louise Parish Box 1182 Valdez, AK 99686 POSITION STATEMENT: Commented on the lack of public hearings on SB 205. Ms. Virginia McKinney Anchorage, AK POSITION STATEMENT: Opposes CSSB 205(HES) ACTION NARRATIVE TAPE 00-18, SIDE A Number 001 CHAIRMAN MILLER announced at 1:28 p.m. that, due to the lack of a quorum, he would call a Senate Health, Education and Social Services (HESS)Committee work session to order for the purpose of taking public testimony on SB 205. Senator Elton and Chairman Miller were present. SB 205-EDUCATION OF EXCEPTIONAL CHILDREN MS. JOAN D'ANGELI, a Juneau parent, brought the following points to the committee's attention. She questioned why the due process provision from the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) was incorporated into SB 205 but the mediation provision from Section 300.506 of IDEA was not. As a parent, she would not know that mediation was available by reading SB 205. IDEA created Parents, Inc. to navigate and advocate for parents involved in special education through mediation and due process. She has been involved in the special education process for 3½ years and only found out about Parents, Inc. last December. She asked Senators to consider amending CSSB 205(HES), Section 4, to read, "(a) A school district or a parent of a student with a disability may request a due process hearing or mediation by the Parent Training and Information Center ..." to be consistent with IDEA. SENATOR ELTON asked where that language should be inserted. SENATOR WILKEN noted in Section 4 of Version D (page 3, line 11). MS. D'ANGELI also asked Senators to consider changing the 12 month time period in Section 5, on page 3, line 16, to a 24 month period. She did not think the word "mediation" needs to be inserted in that section because due process is an amicable agreement between all parties. She asked for a 24 month time period because during her experience with the special education process, many incidents occurred that she did not know how to address and that she did not fully understand until at least one year had passed. She explained that for three years she was handed a "Notice of Procedural Safeguards" which told her that she would receive a notice that the school district would be developing an individual education plan (IEP) for her son. It did not say that she was supposed to be one of the main writers of the plan. She learned the process from a manual from the Disability Law Center. She would never have understood her rights in this process from the notice she was given by the school district. MS. D'ANGELI asked Senators if CSSB 205(HES) will provide more oversight of special education because many people feel there is not enough policing of the special education process right now. She also asked what special education services the Department of Education and Early Development (DOEED) actually provides, as referred to on page 2, line 7. She thanked Senators for their time and expressed support for this bill. Number 769 SENATOR ELTON pointed out that DOEED staff took note of Ms. D'Angeli's questions and asked them to address the mediation issue with Ms. D'Angeli and the next committee of referral. MS. D'ANGELI added that the procedural safeguard provided by the school districts does not tell a parent what the legal requirements of an IEP are. Parents are handed an IEP and asked to sign it on the spot during a meeting. She had no idea her son's IEP included only one hour of speech therapy. Parents cannot help their children if they do not know what is supposed to be in an IEP to begin with. CHAIRMAN MILLER took teleconference testimony. Number 865 MS. FAYE NIETO, Director of Parents, Inc. in Anchorage, explained that Parents, Inc. is federally funded by the U.S. Department of Education to provide information and resources to parents whose children have disabilities. Parents, Inc. is funded through the efforts of the IDEA, which is what the State of Alaska is trying to conform with. She urges those in a decision-making capacity to continue to focus upon the intent of IDEA. IDEA has helped to educate 1,000,000 children in our country and has helped those children transition from school to work. IDEA conformance will provide a structure that will allow the State to put in place best practices and have a conceptual framework that everyone is clear about. Parents, Inc. is finding there is a great deal of confusion among educators around Alaska about the federal law and the local school district policy. That confusion compromises the benefits gained from implementing best practices. MS. NIETO urged committee members to pass SB 205. She has been told by DOEED that when it begins the regulatory process, ample opportunity for additional stakeholder information will be provided. She asked committee members to look at those issues that are embedded in the appeal process. One area that needs further review is the use of federal funds. A recent legislative audit revealed a misuse of funds at the DOEED level for those who were not disabled. Apparently, gifted and talented student programs are funded through the local education agency. Using federal funds for gifted and talented programs, or sports programs or other programs not consistent with IDEA, places a significant risk for federal funding. She urged Senators to consider that issue when they are looking at separating out issues and supporting those who depend on them for support, not to minimize the issue of gifted and talented programs but because they need to be treated in a separate manner. MS. NIETO informed committee members that a review of compliance by the State of Alaska is currently underway by the U.S. Department of Education and $14 million is at risk. Although discussion about forestalling any sanctions has occurred, Alaska is still out of compliance. [Ms. Nieto's written testimony is in the committee file.] MS. LOUISE PARISH, a parent from Valdez, said she feels very strongly that SB 205 was constructed without appropriate parent input. Her main concern is that this bill is moving too fast. Informal hearings or forums were not arranged so that parents could become knowledgeable about this bill. She would like to see a round table stakeholder get-together planned this summer so that this bill can be made ready for next year. Regarding the sanctions for noncompliance, she does not believe a bill must pass this year and asked for proof that federal funds will be withheld. Number 1565 MS. VIRGINIA MCKINNEY of Anchorage informed Senators that about 25 people were waiting to testify in Anchorage and all are dismayed that the meeting will soon end. She supports requiring every school district to offer a gifted and talented program and to maintain the procedural safeguards currently in the program. In times of tight budgets, any program that is not mandated will not survive. As a parent volunteer in her child's gifted classroom over the years, she has realized that gifted children are difficult students to educate. A huge dichotomy between their physical, emotional and intellectual development exists. This dichotomy leads to loneliness and isolation and a feeling of being different. These children are at-risk so it is enormously important to have teachers who are specially trained in how to deal with gifted students. She said she believes all committee members campaigned on a pro-education platform. Many have invested an enormous amount of time strengthening Alaska's schools and making sure our students are prepared for jobs of the future. Taking the procedural teeth out of the gifted program or eliminating the program by making it an optional add-on flies in the face of the legislators' hard work in the face of their campaign promises to support quality education for every child in Alaska. She asked committee members to vote against these bad ideas. CHAIRMAN MILLER announced that due to a floor session, the meeting will continue on Monday. SENATOR WILKEN noted that at the end of each session, a bill pops up that makes legislators nervous, and SB 205 is that bill this year. He is receiving a lot of correspondence from people on both sides of the issue, all making good points. He said he would bet on Alaska's Congressional delegation getting Alaska a little bit of breathing room to take this legislation apart and put it back together over the interim. He expressed concern that the legislature may be rushing into something that may have to be fixed later. With no further business, CHAIRMAN MILLER adjourned the meeting at 2:01 p.m.