Legislature(1993 - 1994)

03/21/1994 01:45 PM Senate HES

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= 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.                                                        

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