Legislature(2013 - 2014)BELTZ 105 (TSBldg)

01/30/2013 08:00 AM Senate EDUCATION

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08:03:14 AM Start
08:03:45 AM SB17
09:14:26 AM Adjourn
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
Heard & Held
          SB  17-EXTEND SPECIAL EDUCATION SERVICE AGENCY                                                                    
CHAIR  STEVENS announced  the consideration  of SB  17 and  noted                                                               
that the  committee substitute  (CS) that  was on  members' desks                                                               
could be adopted at the next  meeting. The intention today was to                                                               
further discuss the bill.                                                                                                       
8:03:45 AM                                                                                                                    
PATRICK  PILLAI, Executive  Director,  Special Education  Service                                                               
Agency  (SESA),  said  SESA's   mission  statement  captured  the                                                               
legislative intent of  services that SESA was  tasked to provide.                                                               
He said SESA tasks were as follows:                                                                                             
        A. Itinerant outreach services to students with Low                                                                     
           Incidence Disabilities (LID). LID is defined as                                                                      
          disability occurring in less than one percent of                                                                      
          the total statewide K-12 enrollment.                                                                                  
        B. Instructional support and training of special                                                                        
            education personnel and primarily that is the                                                                       
          teachers, paraprofessionals, and parents.                                                                             
        C. Services appropriate to special education and                                                                        
          that include  creation of, for  example, E-Modules                                                                    
          of the 13 categories  of special education for the                                                                    
          Department  of  Education  and  Early  Development                                                                    
          (DEED) website.                                                                                                       
MR. PILLAI said SESA's legislative intent was connected to                                                                      
federal law. He explained that according to the session                                                                         
laws of Alaska, the Alaska Legislature created SESA to do                                                                       
the following:                                                                                                                  
        1. Make more special education and  related services                                                                    
          available to students with LID.                                                                                       
        2. Encourage  communities    of   practice   between                                                                    
          districts   with   respect    to   low   incidence                                                                    
        3. Make available a  qualified specialist  to school                                                                    
          districts   to   ensure   free   and   appropriate                                                                    
          education   to   students   with   low   incidence                                                                    
          disabilities without  regard to their  location in                                                                    
          the state.                                                                                                            
MR. PILLAI said SESA funding was as follows:                                                                                    
        · Flat-funded for the past 14 years.                                                                                    
        · Not linked to Base Student Allocation (BSA).                                                                          
        · Has  not received  funding  increases received  by                                                                    
          school districts.                                                                                                     
He said SESA was funded through legislative appropriation and                                                                   
followed the legislative process in seeking an increase to funding.                                                             
He noted that SESA was currently seeking an increase in funding.                                                                
He said the Division of Legislative Audit (DLA) Report calculated the                                                           
        · 36 percent  depreciation of SESA's funding  due to                                                                    
          impact  of  inflation.  The  adjustment  addresses                                                                    
          inflation from  1998 to 2013  and does  not factor                                                                    
          inflation from 2014 to 2021.                                                                                          
        · Retention  of staff  has  been severely  impacted.                                                                    
          Specialists  have  rolled   over  contracts  three                                                                    
          times without increases.                                                                                              
        · Staff  has 70  percent dependent-coverage  medical                                                                    
          insurance,  but  30  percent out-of-pocket  for  a                                                                    
          family  of four  was  about $800,  which makes  it                                                                    
          very difficult to recruit.                                                                                            
He addressed  the recommendation  from DLA relating  to increased                                                               
SESA  funding.  He said  current  funding  was $15.75  [for  each                                                               
student  based  upon  Average  Daily  membership  (ADM)]  and  an                                                               
increase would address inflation's impact  for the past 14 years.                                                               
He stated that the recommended  funding was $21.50 [per student],                                                               
an  increase of  $5.67. He  said the  reasons for  SESA's funding                                                               
increase were as follows:                                                                                                       
        · To fulfill  the intent of the  legislature and the                                                                    
          mandate of 2004 idea.                                                                                                 
        · To  provide competitive  salaries  to attract  and                                                                    
          retain qualified specialists.                                                                                         
        · To  continue  providing   qualified  services  for                                                                    
          children with LID.                                                                                                    
        · To  maintain a  consistent infrastructure  despite                                                                    
          short term or discontinued grant funding cycles.                                                                      
8:08:08 AM                                                                                                                    
MR. PILLAI addressed SESA's funding  based upon ADM versus SESA's                                                               
LID student count as follows:                                                                                                   
        · ADM enrollment has declined  between 2001 and 2013                                                                    
          which impacted SESA funding.                                                                                          
        · LID  student counts  have  increased between  2001                                                                    
          and 2013.                                                                                                             
        · Increasing    LID    students   meant    increased                                                                    
          expectations  of  service from  school  districts.                                                                    
          When   combined  with   a   shortage  of   special                                                                    
          education teachers and  many new special education                                                                    
          directors to  the state, we have  a greater demand                                                                    
          for guidance, support, and training.                                                                                  
SENATOR GARDNER  addressed the decrease  in ADM students  and the                                                               
increase  in LID  students. She  asked  if SESA  had shifted  its                                                               
services and were less LID students being served.                                                                               
MR. PILLAI  replied that SESA  was receiving a greater  number of                                                               
referrals  from  school districts.  He  noted  that part  of  the                                                               
reason was due to the rising  numbers of students with autism and                                                               
multiple disabilities.  He said SESA  served 180 LID  students in                                                               
2001 and 266 LID students in 2013.                                                                                              
He reviewed the  impact from declining ADM on  SESA's LID funding                                                               
from 2004 to 2013 as follows:                                                                                                   
        · SESA lost $212,847 between 2004 and 2013.                                                                             
        · SESA  experienced  inflation   while  being  flat-                                                                    
He said SESA had to do more with less funding due to ADM fluctuations                                                           
and LID student population increases.                                                                                           
MR.  PILLAI addressed  SESA's flat-funding  in comparison  to the                                                               
Consumer Price Index (CPI) and BSA increases as followings:                                                                     
        · CPI increased 36 percent from 2000 to 2012.                                                                           
        · BSA increased 45 percent from 2000 to 2012.                                                                           
8:10:57 AM                                                                                                                    
He  said actual  SESA  funding was  declining  while LID  student                                                               
counts continued to increase.                                                                                                   
He  addressed LID  cost of  operations versus  fund balances  and                                                               
grant  expenditures. He  said SESA  lost two  grants in  2011 and                                                               
2012: Early  Intervention for  Vision (EIV)  Grant and  the Early                                                               
Intervention for  Hearing Impairment  (EIHI) Grant.  He explained                                                               
that SESA held the EIV Grant for  20 years and the EIHI Grant for                                                               
eight years.  He said  the Alaska  Autism Resource  Center (AARC)                                                               
lost  $84,000   in  funding  and  SESA   closed  their  Fairbanks                                                               
satellite office  in response. He  noted that AARC's  funding cut                                                               
occurred  mid-year   while  services  were  promised   to  school                                                               
districts. He said  SESA's Board of Directors decided  not to cut                                                               
back  the  promised services  and  noted  that SESA  absorbed  an                                                               
overage of $15,000 in costs.                                                                                                    
He said under-spending and reducing  specialists to create a fund                                                               
balance  was a  double-edged sword.  He said  SESA was  unable to                                                               
meet  district  demands  for  service   and  their  SESA  recruit                                                               
specialists burn-out.                                                                                                           
8:13:09 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR GARDNER  asked what  caused the  loss of  mid-year autism                                                               
MR.  PILLAI answered  that the  Department of  Health and  Social                                                               
Services  (DHSS) had  anticipated  federal funding  that did  not                                                               
come in.  He noted that  AARC received different  revenue streams                                                               
from the Mental  Health Trust, Department of  Education and Early                                                               
Development (DEED), and DHSS.                                                                                                   
He  addressed  SESA's  challenge  with  operations  planning  and                                                               
grants applications.  He explained  that SESA  planned operations                                                               
after  their  initial grant  submission  and  actual awards  were                                                               
typically less than the initial  request. He said the process was                                                               
a moving  target in terms  of issuing contracts prior  to knowing                                                               
what the grant awards were and  added funding would allow SESA to                                                               
absorb the grant disparity.                                                                                                     
MR.  PILLAI  said  adequate  funding would  allow  SESA  to  meet                                                               
legislative intent  for a free  and appropriate  public education                                                               
to LID students. He explained  that the current funding structure                                                               
was  insufficient  in  order to  provide  school  districts  with                                                               
requested LID  services. He noted  that recruiting  was adversely                                                               
impacted by  the program's sunset  uncertainty and  its inability                                                               
to  offer competitive  health care  packages  to specialists.  He                                                               
said  quality  applicants  were  lost  to  the  Anchorage  School                                                               
District (ASD) due  to their ability to offer  salaries that were                                                               
15 percent higher with full health coverage.                                                                                    
8:16:52 AM                                                                                                                    
He said the impact of  continued under-funding to teachers, aides                                                               
and parents was as follows:                                                                                                     
        1. Reduced  ability  to   promote  evidenced   based                                                                    
        2. Fewer  on-site   visits   to   provide   targeted                                                                    
          interventions,    especially    with    the    LID                                                                    
        3. Shorter visits  to  maximize  travel  dollars  to                                                                    
          include more sites.                                                                                                   
        4. Less time for  classroom observation  and program                                                                    
        5. Loss  of  guidance   to  new   special  education                                                                    
          teachers  and to  classroom teachers  encountering                                                                    
          unique disabilities.                                                                                                  
        6. Loss of child  specific educational  intervention                                                                    
          strategies modeled  on-site to teachers.  For many                                                                    
          of   the  teacher   aides  and   paraprofessionals                                                                    
          without  formal, college,  or graduate  education,                                                                    
          the best  way of showing  them how to work  with a                                                                    
          child is to demonstrate  onsite. Just lecturing or                                                                    
          providing reports did not help very much.                                                                             
        7. Reduced ability  to  recruit and  retain  quality                                                                    
He said  not reauthorizing or  under-funding SESA would  remove a                                                               
state resource in providing services for LID students.                                                                          
8:19:10 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  HUGGINS  asked  if  SESA  was unique  to  Alaska  or  an                                                               
extension of a national or international program.                                                                               
MR. PILLAI answered  that each state had  an organization similar                                                               
to  SESA.  He said  SESA  was  responsible for  the  professional                                                               
development  and  training  of  special  education  teachers  and                                                               
SENATOR HUGGINS asked  what states were similar  to Alaska's SESA                                                               
MR. PILLAI  responded that most  states had a rural  component in                                                               
terms of training teachers and  paraprofessionals. He said Hawaii                                                               
was similar to Alaska in terms of plane and boat travel.                                                                        
SENATOR  HUGGINS  asked  if there  were  Alaska  schools  without                                                               
special  education  capabilities  and   an  individual  that  was                                                               
professionally trained.                                                                                                         
8:22:09 AM                                                                                                                    
MR.  PILLAI responded  that every  site had  a special  education                                                               
teacher. He explained that many  rural special education teachers                                                               
and  aides  lacked the  skill-set  necessary  to provide  a  wide                                                               
spectrum  of onsite  assistance to  LID students.  He noted  that                                                               
school districts  that lacked  the funds  to train  their special                                                               
education  teachers   brought  SESA  in  for   LID  training  and                                                               
certification assistance.                                                                                                       
8:24:18 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  HUGGINS  asked  to  confirm that  SESA  served  260  LID                                                               
students in 2013.                                                                                                               
MR. PILLAI answered correct.                                                                                                    
SENATOR  HUGGINS asked  about LID  student  distribution and  the                                                               
number of LID groups that were served at the same location.                                                                     
MR. PILLAI  replied that [LID  student] distribution  varied from                                                               
site to site.  He noted that SESA was created  to initially serve                                                               
what was  called the  Rural Attendance Areas.  He said  since the                                                               
inception  of  SESA,  major  areas were  also  being  served.  He                                                               
disclosed  that SESA  recently trained  269 paraprofessionals  in                                                               
the  MATSU School  District.  He said  on the  other  end of  the                                                               
school  spectrum was  the Bering  Straits  School District  which                                                               
required SESA's [individual LID  student] assistance due to their                                                               
large  geographic  area.  He   addressed  the  Petersburg  School                                                               
District  that had  a large  number of  children with  autism and                                                               
SESA responded  by training the entire  [special education] staff                                                               
rather than providing itinerant services  to each LID student. He                                                               
summarized that LID student grouping  could fluctuate from one to                                                               
twenty  in  a particular  district.  He  noted that  LID  student                                                               
grouping  was  dependent on  a  school  district's isolation  and                                                               
8:26:12 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR HUGGINS  addressed technology and the  ability to provide                                                               
distance  training without  having to  travel to  a location.  He                                                               
asked if  SESA considered  electronically delivering  LID student                                                               
MR.  PILLAI  responded that  there  was  definitely a  place  for                                                               
technology  and SESA  was  moving in  the  direction of  distance                                                               
education. He  said SESA used  video teleconferencing  and SKYPE.                                                               
He  explained  that  SESA  services  were  dependent  on  student                                                               
disability  levels.  He  noted   that  some  students  might  not                                                               
initially  be able  to use  technology, but  could transition  to                                                               
technology use at a later date.                                                                                                 
8:30:56 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  HUGGINS  addressed  the   SESA  report  on  geographical                                                               
distribution of  LID students served.  He noted that  SESA served                                                               
four  LID  students  in  Anchorage  versus  19  LID  students  in                                                               
Ketchikan. He asked why there was  such a disparity when a larger                                                               
[population base] received less SESA assistance.                                                                                
MR. PILLAI  replied that  ASD had their  own personnel  to handle                                                               
special  education needs.  He noted  that  ASD did  not have  the                                                               
deaf-blind  expertise required  for  four LSD  students and  SESA                                                               
assigned a specialist to provide  assistance. He pointed out that                                                               
the 269  paraprofessionals trained  in the MATSU  School District                                                               
would be reported as training and not as itinerant services.                                                                    
SENATOR  HUGGINS  responded  that   he  did  not  understand  Mr.                                                               
Pillai's  explanation  when  five  times as  many  students  were                                                               
served in  Anchorage versus Ketchikan with  both school districts                                                               
receiving the same  BSA. He explained that he was  not picking on                                                               
Ketchikan,  but he  asked why  there was  a major  SESA disparity                                                               
between Anchorage and Ketchikan.                                                                                                
MR.  PILLAI  replied  that  ASC  had a  wider  range  of  special                                                               
education specialists while Ketchikan did not.                                                                                  
8:33:49 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR DUNLEAVY asked to verify  that SESA provided services for                                                               
teachers and paraprofessionals.                                                                                                 
MR. PILLAI answered yes.                                                                                                        
SENATOR  DUNLEAVY asked  if  SESA ever  trained  and worked  with                                                               
MR. PILLAI answered  yes. He said parents were  brought in during                                                               
the training and the LID  strategies were transferred between the                                                               
school and the home.                                                                                                            
SENATOR  DUNLEAVY  asked if  there  was  anything in  statute  or                                                               
SESA's mission that would prevent direct parental training.                                                                     
MR.  PILLAI responded  that  he did  not think  so.  He said  the                                                               
statute   talked    about   itinerant    services,   professional                                                               
development,  professional   training,  and  other   services  as                                                               
appropriate.  He noted  that  a  parent was  always  part of  the                                                               
itinerant training  team and he  did not see anything  that would                                                               
prevent SESA from training the parent directly.                                                                                 
SENATOR  DUNLEAVY described  an example  of a  child in  a public                                                               
school that  had to  be taken  out of  school but  still required                                                               
[special education] services.  He asked if SESA would  be able to                                                               
work with the parent noted in his example.                                                                                      
MR. PILLAI  stated that  he thought  SESA would  be able  to work                                                               
with the parent.  He said SESA would be able  to provide parental                                                               
training  with  adequate funding  and  SESA  Board of  Directors'                                                               
approval. He  noted that  there was nothing  in the  statute that                                                               
prevented SESA from directly training parents.                                                                                  
SENATOR  DUNLEAVY asked  what state  would have  a model  program                                                               
similar to SESA.                                                                                                                
MR. PILLAI  replied that  Hawaii does.  He explained  that Hawaii                                                               
extended services  to the Marshall  Islands. He said  Vermont was                                                               
another state that had a program similar to SESA.                                                                               
8:36:10 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR GARDNER  addressed the  linkage between  the availability                                                               
of qualified  special education  teachers and  the need  for SESA                                                               
services. She  noted that  Alaska changed  its statutes  to allow                                                               
teachers  to take  their special  education certification  off of                                                               
their license so that they could  not be transferred to a special                                                               
education classroom that  they did not want. She  asked if school                                                               
districts were generally  able to hire as  many special education                                                               
teachers as they  required and if SESA  assistance would diminish                                                               
if the trained special education  teachers' pool was increased at                                                               
school districts.                                                                                                               
MR.  PILLAI  answered  that  there was  a  national  shortage  of                                                               
special  education  teachers  and  noted  that  Alaska  had  many                                                               
unfilled  special education  positions.  He  mentioned that  some                                                               
teachers did  not show a  special education endorsement  on their                                                               
teaching  certificate to  avoid  stress,  paperwork demands,  and                                                               
first  time disability  encounters. He  said there  was a  recent                                                               
survey  that  showed 78  percent  of  Alaska's special  education                                                               
teachers thought  they were  not adequately  prepared due  to the                                                               
vast  demands of  the field.  He  explained that  Alaska had  the                                                               
waiver program  that allowed general education  teachers to enter                                                               
special education after  taking some course work and  there was a                                                               
demand for SESA to provide training.                                                                                            
8:39:43 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR GARDNER asked what percentage  of students served by SESA                                                               
received high school diplomas.                                                                                                  
MR.  PILLAI  replied  that  68 percent  of  SESA's  caseload  was                                                               
intensive. He  said it was hard  to guess an exact  number due to                                                               
the individual disabilities of each student.                                                                                    
SENATOR DUNLEAVY  asked if  SESA ever  had a  direct relationship                                                               
with a student's [Individual Learning Plan] (ILP).                                                                              
MR. PILLAI  answered no. He  noted that  the EIV and  EIHI grants                                                               
had  allowed  SESA  specialists to  provide  direct  services  to                                                               
elevate the skill level of the  parent and support the onsite ILP                                                               
CHAIR STEVENS  asked that the  Department of Education  and Early                                                               
Development (DEED)  come forward and  testify. He said  the lines                                                               
drawn between SESA, DEED, and  the school districts were vague to                                                               
him. He  asked what would  happen if SESA  was to sunset  and the                                                               
impact  it would  have on  school districts  and DEED.  He stated                                                               
that SESA's  funding was channeled through  DEED with limitations                                                               
on strictly passing the funds along.                                                                                            
8:43:15 AM                                                                                                                    
ELIZABETH  NUDELMAN,  Director,  School  Finance,  Department  of                                                               
Education and  Early Development,  responded that  DEED supported                                                               
SESA. She said SESA provided a  statewide capacity to step in and                                                               
fill  the gaps  when  services were  needed.  She referenced  Mr.                                                               
Pillai's  point that  services were  required on  an "as  needed"                                                               
basis and SESA had the specialists  onboard to fill in the needs.                                                               
She noted  that Mr.  Pillai referenced  efficiencies in  that not                                                               
every district  was going  to have  every specialist  needed from                                                               
one year  to the next.  She said  smaller districts were  able to                                                               
reach out to SESA and ask  for some special services to help them                                                               
with their cohort  of students for a particular  year. She stated                                                               
that DEED  would not known  who would fill  the void if  SESA was                                                               
not there  to send specialists  to a district that  was servicing                                                               
their first LID student in five years.                                                                                          
8:45:24 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  HUGGINS  asked  why  SESA  was  not  part  of  DEED.  He                                                               
addressed  DEED's  approach  on  handling  supplementary-programs                                                               
beyond SESA.                                                                                                                    
MS. NUDELMAN answered  that there could be  various DEED diagrams                                                               
of  where to  place supplementary-services.  She stated  that she                                                               
did  not know  how  SESA  was split  between  HSS  and DEED.  She                                                               
explained that SESA was a link to  a set of services and DEED had                                                               
the link to  the school districts. She said it  made sense to her                                                               
that  DEED had  some  oversight and  interaction  with SESA.  She                                                               
explained that  SESA's funding was derived  through the education                                                               
budget. She  noted that  funding could  be done  differently, but                                                               
the current  system was working in  the way that it  was meant to                                                               
have DEED  provide funding  out to SESA.  She said  DEED reviewed                                                               
SESA's budget  and annual audit.  She noted that  DEED's Director                                                               
of Special Education was a member of SESA's oversight committee.                                                                
8:48:02 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  HUGGINS stated  that  funding  variables and  capability                                                               
demands was addressed in the  past. He noted that Juneau's school                                                               
district had  the highest per  capita requirement  for children's                                                               
services. He pointed  out that Juneau only had  three people that                                                               
were having  assistance from SESA  and asked what  allowed Juneau                                                               
to reduce their demand.                                                                                                         
MS.  NUDELMAN  said  SESA's  mission  was  more  towards  serving                                                               
smaller communities  without a special education  specialist that                                                               
a larger community  would have. She noted that  a school district                                                               
may not have  seen a specific disability for five  years and SESA                                                               
would be  able to provide  specialist assistance to  the existing                                                               
special education  teacher. She said Juneau's  population allowed                                                               
for economies of  scale and the school  district retained special                                                               
education teachers that  could address LID students  with a wider                                                               
range of disabilities.                                                                                                          
8:50:45 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR HUGGINS  addressed the disparities between  Ketchikan and                                                               
Juneau. He asked how Ketchikan could  have a demand from SESA for                                                               
19 students and Juneau had only a demand for three students.                                                                    
MS.  NUDELMAN  replied  that  SESA's  expectation  was  to  serve                                                               
communities   with  smaller   enrollments  that   did  not   have                                                               
specialists. She said given SESA's  small community model, it was                                                               
not  surprising that  SESA  did  not serve  as  many students  in                                                               
larger communities.                                                                                                             
SENATOR HUGGINS asked  if the committee would be  able to receive                                                               
information  on  the number  of  special  education teachers  and                                                               
students served in Juneau and Ketchikan.                                                                                        
8:53:03 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR  STEVENS  inquired  how school  districts  decided  on  the                                                               
number of special  education teachers to hire and  budget for. He                                                               
said if  he were a  superintendent, consideration would  be given                                                               
for additional  SESA support  when assistance  does not  impact a                                                               
district's budget. He asked if  SESA charged a district for their                                                               
MS. NUDELMAN answered that SESA's  services were not charged back                                                               
to the districts.  She said the districts used  their funding for                                                               
hiring special education teachers  and one-on-one aides. She said                                                               
with  unique LID  students, SESA  would be  called in  to provide                                                               
additional support and training.                                                                                                
8:55:27 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR  STEVENS pointed  out the  disparity between  SESA services                                                               
provided  to Ketchikan  versus communities  of  similar size.  He                                                               
addressed the  compensation difference between  special education                                                               
teachers in  school districts and  SESA specialists. He  asked if                                                               
more was spent  on special education teachers in  districts or at                                                               
MR.  PILLAI answered  that  less was  spent  on SESA  specialists                                                               
because school district employees  received full medical benefits                                                               
and  salary increases.  He said  SESA recruited  specialists with                                                               
extended experience in specific areas  and it was imperative that                                                               
the specialists knew more than the classroom teachers.                                                                          
8:57:56 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR  STEVENS addressed  the proposed  increase in  SESA funding                                                               
from $15.75  to $21.50. He  asked if SESA's  goal was to  be more                                                               
competitive and  to bring the  compensation for SESA  teachers up                                                               
to the school districts' level.                                                                                                 
MR. PILLAI  answered yes. He said  the two main ones  were salary                                                               
increases and benefit coverage. He  said a funding increase would                                                               
make it  equitable and  SESA would be  viewed as  an organization                                                               
that specialists could stay with for  a long time. He pointed out                                                               
that  it was  not fair  that time-of-employment  and unused  sick                                                               
days  were  not recognized  when  SESA  employees were  hired  by                                                               
school districts.                                                                                                               
8:59:37 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR STEVENS  stated that DEED  could oversee SESA  in different                                                               
ways, but the  same goals would have to be  accomplished. He said                                                               
the  current  system worked  and  it  may  be  best for  DEED  to                                                               
continue doing the job they were doing.                                                                                         
MS.  NUDELMAN  replied  that  Chair   Stevens'  statement  was  a                                                               
reasonable conclusion.                                                                                                          
SENATOR HUGGINS commented that SESA's  staff should be considered                                                               
to be "super special-education qualified" people.                                                                               
MR. PILLAI replied correct. He  said one of the greatest benefits                                                               
that SESA specialists  had was their interaction  and exposure to                                                               
multiple classrooms  and schools. He noted  that interacting with                                                               
parents was  also a source  of acquiring knowledge.  He explained                                                               
that SESA  specialists share their acquired  knowledge with other                                                               
special  education teachers.  He  said one  of the  legislature's                                                               
goals  was to  create  cooperation in  special education  between                                                               
9:02:39 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  HUGGINS  asked  if  SESA had  staff  members  that  were                                                               
retiree  rehires. He  addressed the  possibilities of  leveraging                                                               
teacher-mentor relationships.                                                                                                   
MR. PILLAI  answered that  SESA had  "burnt their  fingers" doing                                                               
some retiree  rehires and his response  was not intended to  be a                                                               
blanket  statement. He  noted that  SESA specialists  had a  high                                                               
degree  of travel,  slept on  floors, and  traveled in  very cold                                                               
conditions. He said  new hires could burnout quickly  if they did                                                               
not enjoy what  they were doing. He explained that  due to SESA's                                                               
flat-funding,  there  were two  main  groups  of applicants:  new                                                               
graduates and retirees who wanted to  see Alaska. He said the new                                                               
graduates  did not  have the  experience  to know  more than  the                                                               
special education  teachers they  were meant  to assist.  He said                                                               
the out-of-state retirees had great  resumes, but some started in                                                               
August and  checked out  in January  to leave at  the end  of the                                                               
9:05:10 AM                                                                                                                    
ERIC  GEBHART, Director,  Board of  Directors, Special  Education                                                               
Service  Agency, addressed  the distribution  of SESA  specialist                                                               
throughout  the state.  He said  sending a  SESA specialist  to a                                                               
particular school district was based  upon the comparison between                                                               
the in-place  experts and  the need that  was in-place.  He noted                                                               
that  a district's  cadre of  special education  teachers changed                                                               
and the need for SESA  assistance changed. He explained that SESA                                                               
assistance was based upon a  district's special education staff's                                                               
expertise and not on the number of LID students.                                                                                
9:09:03 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR HUGGINS  asked about the  demands from home  schooling in                                                               
an  area  like MATSU  and  how  to get  in  touch  with SESA  for                                                               
services. He  noted that he  was a  home school parent  and there                                                               
were a  bunch of  them. He  said disabled  students were  also at                                                               
home schools.                                                                                                                   
MR. GEBHART  replied that  a disabled  home school  student would                                                               
have to be affiliated with a statewide program.                                                                                 
SENATOR HUGGINS asked  how many home school  students and parents                                                               
were receiving SESA services.                                                                                                   
MR. GEBHART answered that he did know.                                                                                          
MR.  PILLAI replied  that  he  did not  know,  but  was aware  of                                                               
children who were  medically fragile at home. He said  he was not                                                               
aware of requests from home school parents for SESA services.                                                                   
MR. GEBHART addressed SESA salaries  and contracts. He said every                                                               
school  district,   as  well  as   SESA,  negotiated   their  own                                                               
individual  contracts. He  noted that  not all  of the  districts                                                               
provided   100  percent   healthcare   coverage.   He  said   the                                                               
Association of  Alaska School Boards  (AASB) conducted  an annual                                                               
salary survey  that every  district received  and the  survey was                                                               
available to  the legislature to  review. He explained  that SESA                                                               
was  based  out  of  Anchorage  and ASD  was  used  as  the  best                                                               
9:12:11 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR   STEVENS   asked   to   verify   that   SESA's   [employee                                                               
compensation] was  not quite competitive and  their teachers were                                                               
not  receiving the  same benefit  package that  special education                                                               
teachers were  receiving in school  districts. He  explained that                                                               
the committee  should look at  funding to  allow SESA to  be more                                                               
MR. GEBHART  replied yes, at least  in Anchorage. He said  he was                                                               
not  familiar with  every district  in the  state. He  noted that                                                               
districts did their own negotiations  and it varied from place to                                                               
SENATOR HUGGINS  asked if SESA  received any  reimbursements from                                                               
school districts.                                                                                                               
MR. GEBHART answered no. He said  it was part of the statute that                                                               
SESA provided their services free to school districts.                                                                          
MR. PILLAI  confirmed that SESA  provided their services  free to                                                               
school districts.                                                                                                               
CHAIR  STEVENS  said  the  proposed CS  in  the  packets  removes                                                               
language  without  the  losing  anything.  [SB  17  was  held  in                                                               

Document Name Date/Time Subjects
01302013_SB17_SESA Powerpoint_Budget.pdf SEDC 1/30/2013 8:00:00 AM
SB 17
01302013_CSSB17_versionU.pdf SEDC 1/30/2013 8:00:00 AM
SB 17