Legislature(1999 - 2000)

04/14/2000 01:28 PM HES

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
txt
            SB 205-EDUCATION OF EXCEPTIONAL CHILDREN                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
MS. JOAN D'ANGELI,  a Juneau parent, brought the  following points                                                              
to the committee's attention.  She  questioned why the due process                                                              
provision  from the  Individuals with  Disabilities Education  Act                                                              
(IDEA) was  incorporated into SB  205 but the mediation  provision                                                              
from Section  300.506 of IDEA  was not.    As a parent,  she would                                                              
not know that  mediation was available  by reading SB 205.    IDEA                                                              
created  Parents,  Inc.  to  navigate  and  advocate  for  parents                                                              
involved in special  education through mediation  and due process.                                                              
She has  been involved  in the  special education  process  for 3½                                                              
years and only  found out about Parents, Inc. last  December.  She                                                              
asked Senators to  consider amending CSSB 205(HES),  Section 4, to                                                              
read,  "(a) A school  district  or a parent  of a  student with  a                                                              
disability may request  a due process hearing or  mediation by the                                                              
Parent Training and Information Center  ..." to be consistent with                                                              
IDEA.                                                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR ELTON asked where that language should be inserted.                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR WILKEN noted in Section 4  of Version D (page 3, line 11).                                                              
                                                                                                                                
MS.  D'ANGELI also  asked  Senators to  consider  changing the  12                                                              
month time period in Section 5, on  page 3, line 16, to a 24 month                                                              
period.   She  did not  think  the word  "mediation"  needs to  be                                                              
inserted  in  that section  because  due  process is  an  amicable                                                              
agreement  between all parties.   She  asked for  a 24 month  time                                                              
period because  during her experience  with the special  education                                                              
process,  many incidents  occurred that  she did  not know  how to                                                              
address and that  she did not fully understand until  at least one                                                              
year  had passed.   She  explained that  for three  years she  was                                                              
handed a  "Notice of  Procedural Safeguards"  which told  her that                                                              
she  would receive  a notice  that  the school  district would  be                                                              
developing an  individual education  plan (IEP)  for her son.   It                                                              
did not say  that she was supposed  to be one of the  main writers                                                              
of the  plan.   She learned  the process  from a  manual from  the                                                              
Disability  Law  Center.   She  would  never have  understood  her                                                              
rights  in this  process  from the  notice  she was  given by  the                                                              
school district.                                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
MS. D'ANGELI  asked Senators  if CSSB  205(HES) will provide  more                                                              
oversight of special  education because many people  feel there is                                                              
not enough  policing of the  special education process  right now.                                                              
She also asked  what special education services  the Department of                                                              
Education  and Early  Development  (DOEED)  actually provides,  as                                                              
referred to  on page 2,  line 7.   She thanked Senators  for their                                                              
time and expressed support for this bill.                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
Number 769                                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR  ELTON pointed  out  that  DOEED staff  took  note of  Ms.                                                              
D'Angeli's  questions  and asked  them  to address  the  mediation                                                              
issue with Ms. D'Angeli and the next committee of referral.                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
MS. D'ANGELI added  that the procedural safeguard  provided by the                                                              
school  districts   does  not  tell   a  parent  what   the  legal                                                              
requirements of an  IEP are.  Parents are handed  an IEP and asked                                                              
to sign  it on the  spot during  a meeting.   She had no  idea her                                                              
son's  IEP included  only one  hour  of speech  therapy.   Parents                                                              
cannot help  their children if they  do not know what  is supposed                                                              
to be in an IEP to begin with.                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
CHAIRMAN MILLER took teleconference testimony.                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
Number 865                                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
MS. FAYE NIETO, Director of Parents,  Inc. in Anchorage, explained                                                              
that Parents, Inc.  is federally funded by the  U.S. Department of                                                              
Education to  provide information  and resources to  parents whose                                                              
children have disabilities.   Parents, Inc. is  funded through the                                                              
efforts of the IDEA,  which is what the State of  Alaska is trying                                                              
to conform  with.  She urges  those in a decision-making  capacity                                                              
to continue to focus upon the intent  of IDEA.  IDEA has helped to                                                              
educate 1,000,000  children in  our country  and has helped  those                                                              
children  transition from  school to work.  IDEA conformance  will                                                              
provide a  structure that  will allow  the State  to put  in place                                                              
best practices  and have a  conceptual framework that  everyone is                                                              
clear about.   Parents, Inc. is finding  there is a great  deal of                                                              
confusion among educators around  Alaska about the federal law and                                                              
the local school district policy.   That confusion compromises the                                                              
benefits gained from implementing best practices.                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
MS. NIETO urged  committee members to  pass SB 205.  She  has been                                                              
told by  DOEED that when it  begins the regulatory  process, ample                                                              
opportunity  for   additional  stakeholder  information   will  be                                                              
provided.   She asked  committee members to  look at  those issues                                                              
that are  embedded in  the appeal  process.   One area that  needs                                                              
further review is the use of federal  funds.  A recent legislative                                                              
audit revealed a misuse of funds  at the DOEED level for those who                                                              
were  not  disabled.   Apparently,  gifted  and  talented  student                                                              
programs are  funded through  the local  education agency.   Using                                                              
federal  funds  for  gifted  and   talented  programs,  or  sports                                                              
programs  or other  programs not  consistent with  IDEA, places  a                                                              
significant  risk for  federal  funding.   She  urged Senators  to                                                              
consider  that  issue when  they  are  looking at  separating  out                                                              
issues and  supporting those who  depend on them for  support, not                                                              
to minimize the issue of gifted and  talented programs but because                                                              
they need to be treated in a separate manner.                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
MS. NIETO informed  committee members that a review  of compliance                                                              
by  the  State  of  Alaska  is  currently  underway  by  the  U.S.                                                              
Department  of Education  and $14  million is  at risk.   Although                                                              
discussion about  forestalling any sanctions has  occurred, Alaska                                                              
is still out of compliance.  [Ms.  Nieto's written testimony is in                                                              
the committee file.]                                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
MS.  LOUISE PARISH,  a parent  from  Valdez, said  she feels  very                                                              
strongly that  SB 205 was  constructed without appropriate  parent                                                              
input.   Her main concern  is that this  bill is moving  too fast.                                                              
Informal  hearings or  forums were  not arranged  so that  parents                                                              
could become  knowledgeable about  this bill.   She would  like to                                                              
see a round table stakeholder get-together  planned this summer so                                                              
that this  bill can be  made ready for  next year.   Regarding the                                                              
sanctions  for noncompliance,  she does  not believe  a bill  must                                                              
pass this  year and  asked for  proof that  federal funds  will be                                                              
withheld.                                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
Number 1565                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
MS. VIRGINIA  MCKINNEY of Anchorage  informed Senators  that about                                                              
25  people  were waiting  to  testify  in  Anchorage and  all  are                                                              
dismayed that the  meeting will soon end.  She  supports requiring                                                              
every school district  to offer a gifted and talented  program and                                                              
to maintain  the procedural safeguards  currently in  the program.                                                              
In times of tight  budgets, any program that is  not mandated will                                                              
not  survive.    As  a parent  volunteer  in  her  child's  gifted                                                              
classroom over  the years, she  has realized that  gifted children                                                              
are  difficult students  to  educate.   A  huge dichotomy  between                                                              
their  physical, emotional  and intellectual  development  exists.                                                              
This dichotomy leads to loneliness  and isolation and a feeling of                                                              
being different.   These children are at-risk so  it is enormously                                                              
important to  have teachers  who are specially  trained in  how to                                                              
deal with  gifted students.  She  said she believes  all committee                                                              
members  campaigned  on  a  pro-education  platform.    Many  have                                                              
invested  an  enormous  amount  of   time  strengthening  Alaska's                                                              
schools and making sure our students  are prepared for jobs of the                                                              
future.  Taking the procedural teeth  out of the gifted program or                                                              
eliminating the program  by making it an optional  add-on flies in                                                              
the  face of  the legislators'  hard  work  in the  face of  their                                                              
campaign promises to support quality  education for every child in                                                              
Alaska.   She asked  committee members to  vote against  these bad                                                              
ideas.                                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
CHAIRMAN  MILLER  announced  that  due  to a  floor  session,  the                                                              
meeting  will continue on Monday.                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR WILKEN noted that at the  end of each session, a bill pops                                                              
up that makes  legislators nervous, and  SB 205 is that  bill this                                                              
year.   He is  receiving a  lot of correspondence  from  people on                                                              
both  sides of the  issue,  all making  good points.   He said  he                                                              
would bet  on Alaska's Congressional  delegation getting  Alaska a                                                              
little bit  of breathing room to  take this legislation  apart and                                                              
put it back together over the interim.   He expressed concern that                                                              
the legislature may be rushing into something that may have to be                                                               
fixed later.                                                                                                                    

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