Legislature(1999 - 2000)

03/23/2000 03:03 PM HES

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
txt
HB 301 - EDUCATION OF EXCEPTIONAL CHILDREN                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
Number 1468                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
CHAIRMAN DYSON announced the next  order of business as House Bill                                                              
No.  301,  "An  Act  relating  to  the  education  of  exceptional                                                              
children; and providing for an effective date."                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
Number 1458                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
BRUCE  JOHNSON, Deputy  Commissioner of  Education, Department  of                                                              
Education & Early  Development, came forward to testify.   He read                                                              
the following testimony:                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
     We believe  the passage  of this  bill is important  for                                                                   
     Alaska's   children,   especially  the   children   with                                                                   
     disabilities  in  our state  who benefit  directly  from                                                                   
     services  supported  by  this   legislation.    As  many                                                                   
     members may be aware, the Individuals  with Disabilities                                                                   
     [Education] Act (IDEA) was enacted  by Congress in 1990.                                                                   
     The  Alaska   Legislature  adopted   the  present   IDEA                                                                   
     statutes in 1993  to conform to the first  federal IDEA.                                                                   
     The federal  IDEA was extensively  amended in  1997 with                                                                   
     the  federal  regulations  interpreting  that  amendment                                                                   
     published  in   the  summer  of   1999.    We   are  now                                                                   
     considering  the amendments of  the state IDEA  statutes                                                                   
     to ensure  conformance with the new, stronger,  and more                                                                   
     detailed federal law.                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
     As  members have no  doubt determined,  HB 301  provides                                                                   
     considerable  reference   to  federal  IDEA,   which  we                                                                   
     believe   is   a  good   strategy,   particularly   when                                                                   
     recognizing  that  federal  IDEA fills  over  48  pages,                                                                   
     accompanied  by IDEA  regulations that  fill another  75                                                                   
     pages.  The  department believes that the  bill's strong                                                                   
     reference to federal IDEA appropriately  strengthens our                                                                   
     state  statutes  and  ensures   that  available  federal                                                                   
     resources  are available  for  Alaska's  students.   The                                                                   
     bill, as written, clarifies  the state role in education                                                                   
     of   our   exceptional   children   and   provides   the                                                                   
     opportunity,  if signed  into  law, to  ensure that  the                                                                   
     state  is in compliance  with federal  IDEA.  This  bill                                                                   
     repeals  inconsistencies  with  federal law  and  offers                                                                   
     clear  guidance and  assistance to  school districts  in                                                                   
     delivering services to special education students.                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
     Finally,  this bill  clearly  defines  its services  for                                                                   
     gifted and  talented students are the  responsibility of                                                                   
     the individual school districts  and are not required or                                                                   
     financially supported by federal  government.  Thank you                                                                   
     for the  opportunity to provide  an overview of  HB 301.                                                                   
     I'd be  happy to answer  any questions and  would invite                                                                   
     Dr. PJ Ford Slack, our state  special education director                                                                   
     forward to assist.                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
CHAIRMAN DYSON refreshed the committee's  memory:  "As I remember,                                                              
the state has  had a couple three  years to kind of get  on top of                                                              
this.  Got started  a bit late.  The person who  was working on it                                                              
... quit  or disappeared  ... so there  [are] lots of  unfortunate                                                              
things that  happened to  bring us  to this apparent  near-crisis,                                                              
and the administration represents  that if we don't get this done,                                                              
we will be disqualified for how many million dollars?"                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
Number 1300                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
MR.   JOHNSON  indicated   the   department   has  just   received                                                              
notification  today  that next  year's  allocation  will be  $14.3                                                              
million.                                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
CHAIRMAN DYSON noted that he and  Senator Miller, Chairman, Senate                                                              
Health and Social Services Committee,  wrote to Senators Murkowski                                                              
and Stevens asking  if there was any possibility  of a waiver, and                                                              
they got a negative response.                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
CHAIRMAN DYSON announced  this bill will not be moved  today.  The                                                              
intention is to hear from advocacy  groups who have worked on this                                                              
and  submitted  criticisms and  suggestions  and  questions.   The                                                              
Department  of  Education &  Early  Education  wants to  hear  the                                                              
testimony  and  has committed  to  working  over the  weekend  and                                                              
coming  up with  a  committee  substitute for  Tuesday's  meeting.                                                              
There will  be an attempt  to get all  the information out  to the                                                              
interested parties so  when this is brought up  on Tuesday, people                                                              
will  have  a  chance  to  testify  on  the  near-final  piece  of                                                              
legislation.                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
Number 1181                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
RIC  IANNOLINO,  Board  Member, PARENTS,  Inc.,  came  forward  to                                                              
testify.   He  explained  there are  20,000  children in  Alaska's                                                              
schools  that receive IEPs  [Individual  Education Plan]  that are                                                              
covered by the IDEA.  Some of the  state laws and regulations have                                                              
inconsistences  with  IDEA, and  this  does make  it   a  cleaner,                                                              
easier way of dealing with laws in general.                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
CHAIRMAN DYSON  asked Mr. Iannolino  what the mission  of PARENTS,                                                              
Inc. is.                                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
MR. IANNOLINO  answered that  the mission of  PARENTS, Inc.  is to                                                              
assist  parents  of  children with  disabilities  to  receive  the                                                              
services  they  are entitled  to  in  schools.   It  is  advocacy,                                                              
training, and it  supports services and information  about parents                                                              
being able to assist their children with specific disabilities.                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
CHAIRMAN  DYSON  asked  Mr.  Iannolino  if this  was  a  federally                                                              
mandated  organization   or  was   there  some  enabling   federal                                                              
legislation that puts organizations like this into place.                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
MR. IANNOLINO said it is a national  organization, and it is named                                                              
in IDEA as  a resource.  The  group is funded by a  federal grant.                                                              
He further answered  a question from Representative  Green that it                                                              
includes both physical and mental disabilities.                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
Number 1076                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
MR. IANNOLINO noted  his organization is concerned  with the issue                                                              
of  losing  the  federal  funds   if  the  state  doesn't  comply.                                                              
PARENTS, Inc. is  currently under the Office of  Special Education                                                              
Programs  (OSEP).  If  they were  to lose  that much money  [$14.3                                                              
million],  there is  a  more draconic  issue  here.   If  services                                                              
aren't  provided  to  families  with  children  with  disabilities                                                              
because the special  education programs won't have  the money, the                                                              
money will have  to come out of the general fund.   In addition to                                                              
that, something  that  is more frightening,  and  no one wants  to                                                              
happen, is that  parents will probably file lawsuits,  which means                                                              
millions  and millions  of dollars  of  more money  that would  be                                                              
drained out of  education in this state if the  state doesn't come                                                              
in compliance, and  the special education money is  lost.  Without                                                              
the special education  money, schools will not be  able to provide                                                              
the services to the children and families that IDEA requires.                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
CHAIRMAN DYSON asked  Mr. Iannolino to highlight the  areas in the                                                              
bill that he has  concerns about that need to be  modified in some                                                              
way.                                                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
MR. IANNOLINO said PARENTS, Inc.  would present written testimony.                                                              
                                                                                                                                
Number 0937                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
STEVE ESSLEY,  Special Education  Attorney, Disability  Law Center                                                              
of Alaska, testified  via teleconference from Anchorage.   He read                                                              
the following testimony:                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
     State  law  concerning education  for  Alaskan  children                                                                   
     with disabilities should not  conflict with the revision                                                                   
     of the federal IDEA.  We believe  the following sections                                                                   
     of the bill should be revised.                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
     Section  3.  [Obligation  to provide special  education:                                                                   
     enrollment  versus  residence].    This  change  is  not                                                                   
     required  in order  to  ensure compliance  with  federal                                                                   
     law.   But  we  understand that  the  federal office  of                                                                   
     special   education   programs  suggested   a   revision                                                                   
     regarding  Alaska's unique correspondence  school.   The                                                                   
     side-by-side  dated February  9 ...  said this  proposed                                                                   
     change clarifies this statewide  correspondence programs                                                                   
     are  responsible.   The Governor's  letter to  President                                                                   
     Pearce states that "correspondence  schools will have to                                                                   
     be creative in providing special  education and may have                                                                   
     to contract with the home school."                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
     Unfortunately,  the change in  the legislation  goes far                                                                   
     beyond statewide  correspondence programs.   This change                                                                   
     is  a  shift  from  an  obligation  to  deliver  special                                                                   
     education and related services  based on residence to an                                                                   
     obligation based  on enrollment.  This will  likely lead                                                                   
     away  from  community-based  inclusive  with  the  least                                                                   
     restrictive  special   education.    For   example,  our                                                                   
     children in state boarding schools  would be affected by                                                                   
     this  change.    We  currently   have  complaints  about                                                                   
     special  education  issues  at  both  the  Alaska  State                                                                   
     School for  the Deaf and Mt.  Edgecumbe.  We  expect the                                                                   
     proposed  change will increase  those types of  problems                                                                   
     and  possibly  increase  the  budget  of  state-operated                                                                   
     schools.                                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
     Our written  testimony raises  several other  unresolved                                                                   
     questions    regarding   other    district    placement.                                                                   
     Disciplinary   exclusions  of   disabled  students   and                                                                   
     services  in youth  detention facilities,  we provide  a                                                                   
     revised   form  of   AS  14.31.186   that  retains   the                                                                   
     residency-based allocation of  fiscal and administrative                                                                   
     responsibility   while  attempting   to  address   those                                                                   
     issues,   as  well  as   boarding  and  private   school                                                                   
     enrollment.                                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
     In  Section   5,  the  federal  law   changes  encourage                                                                   
     alternate dispute resolution  and require that the state                                                                   
     make   mediation   available.       To   be   effective,                                                                   
     nonadversarial  remedies, such  as mediation, need  time                                                                   
     to  accomplish   their  objectives.    We   believe  the                                                                   
     proposed  six-month statute  of limitations is  contrary                                                                   
     to federal law and that the  most analogous period could                                                                   
     be  applied  should  be  two years.    This  statute  of                                                                   
     limitations  should apply  to all  parties.   We have  a                                                                   
     committee substitute  ... that  provides for a  one year                                                                   
     of  statute   [of  limitations]  and  is   certainly  an                                                                   
     improvement, and we thank you for that.                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
     In  Section 6,  applicable federal  regulation  requires                                                                   
     states to  maintain a list of qualifications  of hearing                                                                   
     officers.   We  simply propose  these qualifications  be                                                                   
     sent to  parents and believe  this would foster  dispute                                                                   
     resolution.                                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
     In Section  12, this  section contains  the repeal  of a                                                                   
     number of  Alaska's special  education laws, several  of                                                                   
     which are not  clearly in conflict with federal  law and                                                                   
     are important civil rights for  Alaska's most vulnerable                                                                   
     children.   We encourage  you to  retain, at a  minimum,                                                                   
     such  important  state's  rights as  the  obligation  to                                                                   
     identify children needing special  education and related                                                                   
     services,  also known as  "childfind," that's  currently                                                                   
     AS 14.30.274;  the right to a free and  public education                                                                   
     in  the  least restrictive  environment,  that's  at  AS                                                                   
     14.30.276; minimum  state criteria  for an IEP as  in AS                                                                   
     14.30.278;  and  state  law   definitions  that  special                                                                   
     education  and  related  services that  we  believe  are                                                                   
     consistent with federal law.   Those two are found at AS                                                                   
     14.30.350(9) and (11).                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
     It  would   be  inconsistent  for  this  body   to  seek                                                                   
     meaningful education  reform and to simultaneously  curb                                                                   
     these important  civil rights in  state law.   Thank you                                                                   
     for  your consideration  of  our comments,  and we  look                                                                   
     forward to continued dialog  on this legislation.  It is                                                                   
     of   great   importance  to   Alaska's   students   with                                                                   
     disabilities and their families.                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
CHAIRMAN  DYSON  asked Mr.  Essley  what  the  mission is  of  the                                                              
Disability Law Center.                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
MR. ESSLEY  answered the  Disability Law Center  has a  variety of                                                              
federal mandates to advocate for  and protect the rights of mostly                                                              
individuals with  the most severe  disability, defined  in federal                                                              
law  as those  with  developmental  disabilities  and people  with                                                              
mental illness  who are  in some type  of facility, which  usually                                                              
means a state  hospital.  He further answered  that the Disability                                                              
Law Center gets money from the state  and federal governments.  He                                                              
guessed the  budget would  be in  the region  of $1 million  which                                                              
provides  a  centralized  Anchorage   office  and  three  outlying                                                              
offices.                                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
Number 0483                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
WALTER  MAJOROS, Executive  Director, Alaska  Mental Health  Board                                                              
(AMHB), Office of the Commissioner,  Department of Health & Social                                                              
Services, came forward  to testify.  He explained  that one of the                                                              
responsibilities  of that board  is to advocate  on the  behalf of                                                              
children  and youth with  serious emotional  disturbances  who are                                                              
eligible to  receive special  education services  in the  state of                                                              
Alaska and elsewhere.   The board shares  statutory responsibility                                                              
with the population with the Governor's  Council on Disabilities &                                                              
Special Education.   The board is generally in support  of HB 301,                                                              
but there are some concerns.  He  explained the board's perception                                                              
of what the problem is concerning  children with serious emotional                                                              
disturbances   (SED).    Historically,   SED  children   have  not                                                              
adequately had their needs addressed  within the special education                                                              
services program throughout  the state.  Many of  the SED children                                                              
are not  being identified  to receive  special education  services                                                              
and that those who are receiving  special education services often                                                              
do not get the  counseling and treatment services  that they need,                                                              
and that should be included as part of their IEPs.                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
MR. MAJOROS said  the board would like to see  the bill strengthen                                                              
and not  weaken the  rights of  parents and  children so  they can                                                              
receive the  most comprehensive special  education services.   One                                                              
of  the  areas   that  needs  to  be  debated  is   the  issue  of                                                              
responsibility  of  services  should  be  based  on  community  of                                                              
enrollment   versus  residence.      The   six-month  statute   of                                                              
limitations for  the due process  hearings is a problem,  and that                                                              
should be at least one year and preferably  two years to encourage                                                              
parents to  use alternative  routes such as  mediation.   The AMHB                                                              
shares  some  of the  concerns  expressed  by the  Disability  Law                                                              
Center, by  repealing the special  education statutes the  risk of                                                              
losing of  proactive mandates  that currently  exist in  state law                                                              
such as  childfind program,  the idea  of educational services  in                                                              
the  least  restrictive  environment,   relegating  everything  to                                                              
regulations  and repealing  the statutes,  and  the minimum  state                                                              
criteria that exists in state law for IEPs.                                                                                     
Number 0177                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
TIM   WEISS,   Board  Member,   PARENTS,   Inc.,   testified   via                                                              
teleconference from  Anchorage.  He is the parent  of a child with                                                              
disabilities.  PARENTS, Inc., is  the only entity authorized under                                                              
IDEA who  is currently  in full compliance  with the  requirements                                                              
stated in IDEA regulations.  PARENTS,  Inc. represents parents and                                                              
children throughout the state.                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
TAPE 00-35, SIDE A                                                                                                              
Number 0066                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
MR.  WEISS  said  all  items  in  the  current  laws  are  out  of                                                              
compliance  with   IDEA.     Section  3  correspondence   schools,                                                              
residence versus enrollment is an  issue of merely who pays.  That                                                              
is not a major issue in the eyes  of PARENTS, Inc. except that the                                                              
change  the department  is  proposing does  in  fact provide  more                                                              
choice for  parents over what schools  they want.  Section  5, the                                                              
statute of  limitations, PARENTS, Inc.  concur that six  months is                                                              
not sufficient.   They would prefer  two years; however,  one year                                                              
is sufficient  also.   Section 6,  maintaining  a list of  hearing                                                              
officers, is  already required under  federal law in IDEA  and its                                                              
regulations.   Section 12,  all of those  other sections  that the                                                              
removal of  were objected to  are explicitly mentioned  in federal                                                              
law and regulations.  There is no  need to put back into state law                                                              
because that will limit the state's  ability to go beyond that and                                                              
provide additional protection.                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
Number 0241                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
FAYE  NIETO testified  via  teleconference  from  Anchorage.   She                                                              
thanked  the  committee  for  bringing  this bill  forward.    She                                                              
appreciates  the  work  of  Steve Essley  at  the  Disability  Law                                                              
Center.   She  is  confused  as to  why  at  this late  date  this                                                              
information is being  brought forward when many people  who sit on                                                              
the  special  education  advisory committee  with  the  Governor's                                                              
council had the information in December.   She urged the committee                                                              
to look  at the wonderful practices  that IDEA provides  the state                                                              
and the 20,000 children who receive  services.  She also urged the                                                              
committee to look  at the wealth of information,  as Bruce Johnson                                                              
pointed out, is embodied within IDEA  which provides a description                                                              
of how to operate.  She hoped the  committee moves this quickly so                                                              
corrective action  is not put in  place by the U.S.  Department of                                                              
Education.   She noted that April  14 is when the  U.S. Department                                                              
of Education will review the compliance efforts.                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
Number 0488                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
MARC   GROBER,  Attorney,   testified   via  teleconference   from                                                              
Anchorage.  He has been involved  with litigating and representing                                                              
parents of exceptional children for  many years.  He has testified                                                              
about  an   almost  identical   situation   in  1993  before   the                                                              
legislature;  he drafted  SB 315  that was  introduced by  Senator                                                              
Miller in the 18th Legislature.   He has been appointed by the OPA                                                              
[Office of Public  Advocacy] to represent parents  and children in                                                              
this area;  and has been a  DOE [Department of  Education] hearing                                                              
officer for IDEA.                                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
MR. GROBER  stated this  a very  complex situation.   He  noted he                                                              
shared  quite  a bit  of  material in  the  past hoping  that  the                                                              
committee could become fluent in  this area where there is so much                                                              
jargon.  He commented  HB 301 is trying to "patch  a toothpick and                                                              
turn it  into an ocean  liner."  The  legislation that  the agency                                                              
has offered is a disaster, and he  believes the committee couldn't                                                              
do worse starting from scratch.   The real question is "why are we                                                              
here?"  There has been some suggestion,  as was suggested in 1993,                                                              
that if something  isn't adopted immediately, money  will be lost.                                                              
He indicated he  has spent time conferring with  the congressional                                                              
delegation,  and he spoke  with Senator  Stevens' staff  today and                                                              
was  advised  that  the  U.S.  Secretary   of  Education  has  not                                                              
indicated  that there  is any intention  yet to  cut off  Alaska's                                                              
funding.    The  federal  government  wants  to  see  Alaska  move                                                              
forward; that doesn't mean Alaska has to adopt poor legislation.                                                                
                                                                                                                                
MR.  GROBER noted  there  are a  number of  issues  that the  bill                                                              
presents  that a number  of people  have reviewed.   He  went over                                                              
some  issues that  haven't been  discussed:   whether the  initial                                                              
sections of the  bill, deferring essentially ongoing  authority to                                                              
federal  legislation, may  be unconstitutional.    There are  some                                                              
cases  he is  attempting  to  research  that may  illuminate  this                                                              
problem.  He as yet doesn't have  an answer, and that is a concern                                                              
for him.  There  are major issues with the due  process provisions                                                              
that the  bill would allow to  remain in Alaska  statutes inasmuch                                                              
as they  would remain  inconsistent and  noncompliant.   There are                                                              
additional issues  with the whole  concept of the state's  role in                                                              
this venue.   Unfortunately, because  this is a very  legal issue,                                                              
and there are so many non-legally  trained people involved, people                                                              
often get  confused.  He wanted  the committee to  understand that                                                              
the IDEA does  not control the individual actions  of local school                                                              
districts, parents  and students.   The way the IDEA  is fashioned                                                              
is that  is presents  a carrot  if the  state adopts local  policy                                                              
which meets federal  minimums.  It needs to be  understood that if                                                              
the  policy  statement   of  this  bill  is  adopted,   Alaska  is                                                              
essentially  enacting as  the state standard  the lowest  possible                                                              
standard.   Some of  the advocacy groups  will tell the  committee                                                              
that is bad because  it is tying the state to  the lowest possible                                                              
standard.   If Missouri can set out  a standard or policy  that is                                                              
beyond the federal  statutes, then Alaska can be  challenged to do                                                              
likewise.                                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
MR. GROBER noted  he had submitted additional  testimony today via                                                              
e-mail to  all the committee members.   He urged the  committee to                                                              
pass good  legislation and not pass  bad legislation for  the fear                                                              
of losing money.   He finds it hard to believe  that the Secretary                                                              
of the United  States Department of Education is  going to cut off                                                              
funding to a  state which is trying to enact  legislation enabling                                                              
its agencies  and school districts  to provide appropriate  public                                                              
education to  its students.   He urged  the legislature  to become                                                              
involved in this.                                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
CHAIRMAN  DYSON  commented  he  was  interested  in  Mr.  Grober's                                                              
information  that the  Secretary  of the  Department of  Education                                                              
would not cut Alaska off because  he has also been in contact with                                                              
both of  Alaska's Senators,  and they  didn't give  Representative                                                              
Dyson much hope.   He asked Mr. Grober to drop him  a note on that                                                              
issue.  Representative Dyson told  Mr. Grober that his staff would                                                              
get him a copy of the CS when it is available.                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
Number 0985                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
MARY KLUGHERZ  testified via teleconference  from Ketchikan.   She                                                              
is  a  parent  and  was  former  chair  of  the  Ketchikan  School                                                              
District's Committee on Gifted and  Talented Education.  She noted                                                              
that the  Alaska Legislature  was a pioneer  when it  created this                                                              
initial  legislation   because  the   definition  of   exceptional                                                              
children  included  disabled children as well  as gifted children.                                                              
This  statute addresses  these two  distinct  groups of  students.                                                              
Virtually  every part  of this  statute either  amends or  repeals                                                              
legislation  that covers  both learning  disabled (LD) and  gifted                                                              
and talented (GT) children.  It is  effective to leave LD children                                                              
with  the  protection  of  the federal  law,  but  it  strips  all                                                              
protections  from GT  students.    The GT  students  will have  no                                                              
statutory rights or protections which they have had since 1970.                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
MS. KLUGHERZ  indicated that  the bill repeals  all but  two minor                                                              
statutes related to gifted education  in Alaska.  All that remains                                                              
is  a  definition  and the  authority  for  districts  to  provide                                                              
something by regulations adopted  by the Department of Education &                                                              
Early  Development.   All the  other protections  and due  process                                                              
rights of this population are completely  stripped away.  Whatever                                                              
problem  the state  may  have with  complying  with  IDEA for  the                                                              
learning  disabled children,  there is  no reason  to abandon  the                                                              
gifted children.   Gifted children  represent 5-10 percent  of the                                                              
student population.   As this bill is looked at  over the weekend,                                                              
keep  in  mind,  that  the  original  intent  of  the  legislature                                                              
included  gifted and  talented  children in  the  due process  and                                                              
procedural  rights   that  were  afforded  to   learning  disabled                                                              
children.   The same process  and rights  need to be  provided for                                                              
gifted and talented students.                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
CHAIRMAN  DYSON  asked  if  Ms.   Klugherz  believes  the  state's                                                              
responsibility  is the same  for gifted  children as for  children                                                              
with profound disabilities.                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
MS. KLUGHERZ  answered yes  it is,  and it was  the intent  of the                                                              
legislature in the original legislation.                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
Number 1174                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
DAVID   MALTMAN,  Executive   Director,   Governor's  Council   on                                                              
Disabilities  & Special  Education,  testified via  teleconference                                                              
from Anchorage.   He explained the duties and  responsibilities of                                                              
the Governor's  Council on Disabilities  & Special Education.   He                                                              
noted that  the bill is an  important civil rights statute.   This                                                              
is a  statement of the rights  and responsibilities  that connects                                                              
families  with government  (schools) and  connects them  in a  way                                                              
that they are  equal partners with the school  in direct education                                                              
of the children.   The civil rights statute being  considered also                                                              
establishes  a  way  for  parents and  schools  to  resolve  their                                                              
differences.  The council believes  this bill is necessary because                                                              
Congress has  changed federal  law, and it  has changed it  to the                                                              
extent that  Alaska's state  law is  inconsistent or conflicts  or                                                              
someway doesn't represent the improvements  that have been made in                                                              
federal law that would be good for  Alaskan families.  The council                                                              
would  like  to see  this  bill  move  along  because it  makes  a                                                              
statement  about the rights  and responsibilities  of parents  and                                                              
schools to educate children with disabilities.                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
CHAIRMAN DYSON asked  Mr. Maltman if he thought the  bill was fine                                                              
the way it is.                                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
MR. MALTMAN noted the council had  suggested some improvements and                                                              
submitted those  in writing,  which have  also been identified  by                                                              
other groups  who have  previously  testified.   He said that  the                                                              
council is also  concerned about the removal of  gifted education.                                                              
The  council is  not  comfortable with  repealing  the rights  and                                                              
responsibilities  of parents with  gifted students and  would like                                                              
to see some improvements in this area.                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
CHAIRMAN DYSON asked  if it is the policy position  of the council                                                              
that  there  is  a public  and  state  responsibility  for  gifted                                                              
children  that   is  the  same   level  as  those   with  profound                                                              
disabilities.                                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
MR. MALTMAN  said the  council respects  what  the GT people  have                                                              
had.  The GT  students have not had the best of  programs, but the                                                              
GT parents have  had the basis to interact with  schools about the                                                              
education for  their children.   The council  would prefer  a much                                                              
improved  system for  gifted education  where  the state  actually                                                              
identifies  and   perhaps  standardizes  eligibility,   curriculum                                                              
perhaps, and ways to identify these children.                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
CHAIRMAN DYSON asked  Mr. Maltman if he considered  being gifted a                                                              
disability.                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
MR. MALTMAN answered no.  He believes  that all parents would like                                                              
to  regard  their children  as  special  in  many  ways.   The  GT                                                              
students have  unique talents,  and it is  worthy of the  state to                                                              
invest in their education.                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
CHAIRMAN DYSON  closed the hearing on  HB 301.  [HB 301  was heard                                                              
and held.]                                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                

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