Legislature(1993 - 1994)
03/21/1994 01:45 PM Senate HES
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
VICE-CHAIR SHARP introduced HB 429 (SPECIAL EDUCATION SERVICE AGENCY) as the next order of business. MARGARET LOWE, Commissioner of DHSS, said that she was representing Representative Jeannette James, the sponsor of HB 429. She read a brief sponsor statement. SENATOR DUNCAN clarified that HB 429 repeals the section of the statute that requires the Governor's Council on Disabilities and Special Education to govern the state's Special Education Service Agency (SESA). He asked if the intent of HB 429 was to create a consumer-driven governing board, then why not structure that governing board in statutes. Repealing the governing portion without any provisions does not ensure anything. MARGARET LOWE noted that she was President of the SESA board for 1994. She explained that SESA intended to repeal the statutes first and then work on legislation to make statutory provisions. SENATOR DUNCAN did not believe that a two-step process was necessary. He suggested repealing and organizing a governing board at the same time. MARGARET LOWE stated that she had all of that material prepared and ready. SENATOR SALO inquired as to the current composition of the board and the recommended changes. MARGARET LOWE explained that currently the majority of the board members are also members of the Governor's Council on Disabilities and Special Education. The current board also includes one school superintendent from the Superintendent's Association, and a representative of the National Education Association (NEA). She said that the current representation had not worked very well, due to the lack of regional or parental member requirements. She asserted that the major reason for the legislation was the conflict of interest with the Governor's Council. She did not believe that proper surveillance could occur when the Governor's Council, who should be reviewing the quality of services in special education, owns a special education school. Ms. Lowe noted that the by-law's change had been voted upon and only waits for this bill or another to pass in order for them to be in effect. The by-laws specify that two rural area parents with children in those programs would be present on the board. She noted that direct NEA affiliation would be eliminated, special education teachers would fill those positions. The superintendent would still be on the board. SENATOR ELLIS pointed out that Governor Hickel had posed a major effort to consolidate and eliminate various boards and commissions. He asked how this board was allowed to be introduced. MARGARET LOWE did not believe a board was eliminated for this board to be organized. Ms. Lowe stated that the Governor's office had given approval to proceed with this legislation, primarily due to the conflict of interest issue. TAPE 94-21, SIDE B Number 576 SENATOR ELLIS asked if this board would be a net gain to the number of boards or commissions. MARGARET LOWE said yes, but noted that this board has never had any staff and would not, under HB 429, because the executive director of SESA would be the staff. SENATOR ELLIS inquired as to the financial aspect of HB 429. MARGARET LOWE said that SESA has had a budget for the board for many years. The funds are under the Department of Education's Special Education funding. SENATOR ELLIS asked for the amount of the total budget. MARGARET LOWE did not know, but offered to find out for Senator Ellis. SENATOR ELLIS asked if the number of members for this new organization would be the same as the previous board. MARGARET LOWE believed that the new board contained one less person than the original board. Ms. Lowe noted that the board was still a statewide representation. SENATOR ELLIS reiterated Senator Duncan's suggestion to specify the board's seats in statutes. He did not want to leave a gap; why not put in statutes now. SENATOR DUNCAN did not feel there would be any title problems due to the broad title of the legislation. SENATOR SALO asked how many staff, other than the executive director, are currently under SESA. MARGARET LOWE said that approximately twenty-eight people are teaching with a support staff of six to eight people. SENATOR SALO noted that the function of SESA was to offer low volume special education services throughout Alaska. She asked if they concentrated on any specific areas. MARGARET LOWE stated that they have instructors for all the major areas of special education. There are no psychologists. SENATOR DUNCAN requested that Ms. Lowe present the information on the composition of the board to add to the bill. VICE-CHAIRMAN SHARP held SB 429 so that Ms. Lowe could provide information regarding the composition of the board for the committee to consider.