Committee on Education

Public Hearing

February 21, 1995

Page 27


LB 742


SENATOR McKENZIE:  Senator Bohlke, Members of the Education Committee, for the record, my name is Jan McKenzie.  That is


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February 21, 1995

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M-c-K-e-n-z-i-e.  I represent the 34th Legislative District, and I'm here this afternoon to introduce LB 742 at the request of the Governor.  The introduction of LB 742 amends the method currently used by the State Board of Education to provide grants for the cost of special education programs to school districts, cooperatives of school districts, or educational service units.  Almost 11 percent of our school age students are identified as having needs and are served by special education programs.  We are one of the top ten service providers in the nation.  These are statistics we are proud of, and our efforts must be made with care as not to damage the quality of services special education students receive.  During the last 15 to 20 years, the federal government in many states, including Nebraska, have established a variety of categorical funding programs to serve various needs populations among school age children.  These programs focus on specified categories of students and the funding for special education is separate from funds for other school programs.  During this same period, Nebraska has reformed its school finance system.  Through the courts and Legislature, we have focused on reducing the effect of the variations in local property wealth on the capabilities, for local spending for education.  Using projected figures from fiscal year 191 through 192 until fiscal year 2006 to 2007, the average annual growth of aid, percentage of aid growth expected from LB 1059 aid will equal 3.8 percent.  This figure combines annual, average annual income tax growth during this period of 7.6 percent, and an annual equalization aid increase of 1.7 percent.  Special education growth will have an annual average increase of 10.3 percent during this time period.  The Legislature created a Special Education Accountability Commission in 1993.  Their primary goal is to identify strategies for accomplishing cost containment in special education that will result in the average special education cost increases at a rate no greater than the average annual education growth rate.  Much of special education spending is driven by federal, state, and local mandates outside the control of the local schools.  The task of cost containment is monumental.  It is my hope that the introduction of LB 742 and recommendations of the Special Education Accountability Commission together can identify cost containment strategies through which the current system can be made more efficient and effective in closing the large and growing gap between special education and general education.  I wanted to also share with you a couple of facts and statements in terms of Nebraska's comparison to other states, and have provided you with two separate handouts, one which looks at the federal regulations, the state statutes and then what's included in


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our Rule 51.  (Exhibit E) The other provides some charts and information about the increases in spending as compared to 1059 growth and revenue projections.  (Exhibit F) But just for your information, there are only three other states which use an excess cost formula, which is what Nebraska uses.  There are 25 other states that have caps on state special education funding.  There are 10 states that cover more at the state level than Nebraska in terms of the contribution for special education costs.  There are 40 states which require more contributions at the local level than we do.  And special education funding in the latest report, Winners All, from the National Association of School Boards, a special study group on special education, required that special education funding should not be separate but rather directly dependent on the per pupil funding level for general education, forcing the two advocacy groups to work together, general and special education.  And one other statement about our formula, excess cost formulas, from their report, and I quote, "Excess cost formulas lead to overclassification because districts are reimbursed regardless..."oh, oh, tore my page out, "regardless of the students identified or the services provided." The quote has to end there where I lost my page.  I paraphrase after that.  Certainly this is a difficult task and a difficult proposal for us to consider in terms of capping what the state will contribute to special education.  However, other states have looked at the hard issue and have, indeed, taken some steps in major reform to accomplish the end.  Those states include Minnesota, Kentucky, Oregon, Montana, Vermont, and Pennsylvania.  I am certainly interested in hearing this afternoon what both proponents and opponents have to say.  I know I will be followed by Lieutenant Robak speaking on behalf of the Governor and would answer any questions that you might have at this time.


SENATOR BOHLKE:  Any questions from the committee?  Senator Stuhr.


SENATOR STUHR:  Yes, Senator, the other states that have capped their education, have they also capped the number that they serve?


SENATOR McKENZIE:  Senator Stuhr, I will dig through my stack of information in front of me and answer that question in closing, if I can.


SENATOR BOHLKE:  Senator Bernard-Stevens.


SENATOR BERNARD-STEVENS:  I'm assuming that none of this


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February 21, 1995

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takes away the mandate of special education in education, correct?  We still have the mandate.


SENATOR McKENZIE:  The mandate is a federal mandate, Senator Bernard-Stevens.  However, there are in our own state statute, and in our Rule 51 requirement, our own procedural mandates and, in some cases, and I am sure we will hear opposing testimony to this statement, areas where, in fact, we could make changes that would affect the excess cost and the cost that we are deriving in the formula because of excessive paperwork and personnel time.


SENATOR BERNARD-STEVENS:  So do the mandates that the state that broadens the number of children that could...would be accepted under special education, broaden it as compared to what the federal mandate would be?


SENATOR McKENZIE:  Senator Bernard-Stevens, I would say I don't believe that what we do, in Nebraska allows us or encourages us to identify more children than we would be required to.  It is my belief that the system we use, the bureaucratic procedures, our two levels of service, our statutory identification standards, are areas that we could look at and address in terms of how it drives the overall cost.  But...excuse me.


SENATOR BERNARD-STEVENS:  If we did some of those things, how much, how many dollars, ball park figure, do you think we could save, those things that you, that were...  the bureaucratic change, the duplication we've got?


SENATOR McKENZIE:  Well, I may defer that question to someone from the Special Education Accountability Commission who might be ...  have a better answer.


SENATOR BERNARD-STEVENS:  And that's why I asked this.  Maybe some of those behind coming up might think about it.  The other couple of questions I have, you mentioned a lot of states have different ...  different formulas, but the bottom line is if we agree with this particular bill the state will pay less and the local district will pay more


SENATOR McKENZIE:  That's correct.


SENATOR BERNARD-STEVENS:  All right, and, of course, I have heard a lot of rhetoric in most of the states, this state no exception, about property taxes are too high and we need to not have any more unfunded mandates, so how do we justify this on the property tax side and the unfunded mandate side? 


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February 21, 1995

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SENATOR McKENZIE:  Well, it is certainly difficult to justify, Senator Bernard-Stevens, but my true hope in this legislation is that we will be able to examine our system, the Special Education Accountability Commission and the Legislature come forward with some proposals that will allow us to retain the quality of services that we provide, eliminate some of the unnecessary costs in our system, and be able to do that while holding special education spending about the same level that schools' regular spending is moving at.


SENATOR BERNARD-STEVENS:  Final question, if the bill made it out of committee in its present form, and got to the floor of the Legislature, is going to be debated, would you want the bill passed this year?


SENATOR McKENZIE:  Gee, I would prefer to see us work on solving part of our problem in Nebraska in terms of how we deliver services and to just see a flat cap passed with no allowance for growth from year to year.


SENATOR BERNARD-STEVENS:  I think that 'is a no.


SENATOR McKENZIE:  That's a no, a qualified no, if I might.




SENATOR WICKERSHAM:  Senator, I am curious.  I have the same concerns that I think that Senator Bernard-Stevens has about capping something and simply producing greater property tax liability.  And I was also a little bit intrigue by your answer that the way to keep that from happening is to examine the system and to find savings and so forth.  I thought we were already doing that through the commission.


SENATOR McKENZIE:  Well, Senator, we are attempting to do that.


SENATOR WICKERSHAM:  They are not working hard enough.


SENATOR McKENZIE:  At current they are focusing on the pilot projects which are meant to find that resolution.  You may ask Lieutenant Governor Robak also why the Governor believed it was time to introduce a lid at this point, but my understanding is that the growth is accelerating at rapid enough rate that we need to look for resolutions sooner than the conclusion of the pilot projects. 


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SENATOR WICKERSHAM:  And I think I also heard you say that you anticipate that regardless of any other changes we make in the system we would continue to serve the same number of children and deliver the same services.


SENATOR McKENZIE:  Well, I believe that is possible and we have...




SENATOR McKENZIE:  ...  well, 11 percent of our school population identified but we have a declining school population.  The costs are going up.  We have fewer children in our school system and we identify about the same percent.  There are certainly in the past few years more children identified with multiple handicapping conditions that are certainly more expensive than mild disorders.


SENATOR WICKERSHAM:  I just want to flesh out, apparently there is no intent on your part anyway, as the introducer, to suggest that we have children who are improperly classified or who are receiving excess services?


SENATOR McKENZIE:  That's correct.




SENATOR McKENZIE:  We do, however, use a frequency and duration system which classifies children in two categories in terms of our program.  That is an area that we could look at too.




SENATOR BOHLKE:  Thank you, Senator Wickersham.  I was almost raising my hand to ask for recognition from you.  You have done such a good job on the prior testimony that I was just ready to turn the committee over to you.  Senator McKenzie, you and I have had some discussion, you know, on this topic, but is it not your feeling, well, no, I have had some concern say at our level one and our level two services that we have seen an expansion, that it is not so much what we are talking about how we go about things and to the numbers of children and, you know, that I have said from observing speech pathology and I know I will have some opportunity the people in this category, but are we not, by increasing categories, have we not expanded services and numbers in those levels? 


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SENATOR McKENZIE:  Well, if you will recall, Senator Bohlke, we added three categories to our own state statutes last biennium because of changes in the federal law, and there is one argument that the federal government has never funded special education to the level they committed themselves to.  So, again, it is one of those we are passing it on situations.  Our...  our decisions through Rule 51 as to how we designate eligibility, the levels we've establish and the categories of designation are the approach Nebraska has taken to providing special education services.  When we add a new category, of course, we will qualify children for that category.  But about 72 to 75 percent of the children we serve in Nebraska are learning disabled or speech and language impaired.  The bulk of our population fit in those two categories, and the rest then will fit in one of the other, fall into one of the other categories, and sometimes multiple categories..  But that is certainly the bulk of our identified population, in those two categories.


SENATOR BOHLKE:  And have we not over the years expanded the children that we identify and serve in those categories as to say prior when we would let, them...  a number wait until second or third grade before we would begin to serve those students?


SENATOR McKENZIE:  Well, in terms of speech and language, in particular, the emphasis has moved away from dealing with articulation problems to actual language delay and to language disorders.  So the focus has been to wait with articulation problems or not to necessarily identify for that purpose but rather to identify for speech and language disorders.  As to the actual numbers, I couldn't tell you what the increase has been over that ten year period percentagewise.


SENATOR BOHLKE:  And then last, did I, at one time, read or know that the Governor's projected savings from this was 12 million for next year?


SENATOR McKENZIE:  I believe that is correct.


SENATOR BOHLKE:  So, if we take this out on the floor, and we don't pass it, and we are looking at other things in the budget, this is 12 million, I mean this is just hard facts, that will not be there.


SENATOR McKENZIE:  Absolutely, absolutely.


SENATOR BERNARD-STEVENS:  No, it's not true, but that's all


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February 21, 1995

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SENATOR BOHLKE:  Well, we can ask, probably, the Lieutenant Governor that question.




SENATOR McKENZIE:  I'd be happy to transfer the hot seat.


SENATOR BOHLKE:  Any other questions?  I see none.  Thanks.  Lieutenant Governor Robak.


LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR ROBAK:  Senator Bohlke, Members of the Education Committee, for the record, my name is Kim Robak, R-o-b-a-k, and I'm Lieutenant Governor here on behalf of Governor Nelson to testify in support of LB 742.  Senator McKenzie introduced LB 742 at the request of Governor Nelson and we thank her for that introduction.  Legislative Bill 742 really addresses financial reality.  To paraphrase from a recent editorial, the cap is not in any way meant to end free and appropriate education for children with special education needs.  The cap is meant to ensure that that program continues.  Very simply put, the bill will remove the current reimbursement requirement from 90 percent above the regular rate to a cap of 122 million as appropriated in the 1996-97 budget.  Now our state expenditures for special education have doubled in the last six years, and if we don't tackle the problem now, we are headed for the 200 million dollar mark by the year 2000, nearly doubling again in five years.  This problem is not new.  I want to point out to you that during the Special Legislative Session in 1986, then Governor Kerrey attempted to also tackle a reduction in the state's reimbursement for special education services.  The response at that time was that the issue was too complex and controversial to tackle in a special session, let's look at it.  Again, in 1993, the special education committee was established to look at the growing cost of special education.  For nearly ten years now, for actually over ten years, because in the article about Senator Kerrey, he says he had been dealing with rising and escalating special education costs for the past two years, for over ten years, we have been looking at it.  It is time to now do something.  This problem is not just in Nebraska.  I read an article recently from September of 1990, which outlines the problem of growing special education costs in Tennessee and other states.  The article suggests that the special education spending threatens to squeeze regular education budgets and erode support for education of those children as well.  What LB 742 attempts to do is to get a


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handle on the spending while continuing the effort to find the best possible services at the lowest possible cost.  We need to be creative.  We need to break out of the boxes, and the molds, and the habits that prevent us from new and better delivery.  And I will give you an example of the Medicaid budget.  When the federal government started to put the squeeze on us on the state level, lower our reimbursement rate, and prevent us from spending as much money as we wanted to spend on Medicaid, we started to think of new ways to provide those services.  We started to look at managed care.  We started to look at capping optional services, and while it is difficult, we hopefully are providing a better product at a lower cost.  Let me tell you what LB 742 is not.  It is not a bill to prevent kids from getting education.  We have no intention of abandoning children with needs.  Nebraska has an excellent special education program and we want to continue that program.  it is not a punishment to school districts for not holding down the costs.  We don't believe that there is a wholesale dumping of kids into special education programs to get more state dollars, nor is this an effort to shift spending to the local taxpayer.  We believe that there are ways to save and to better deliver services.  I don't think that there is a person here in this room from an administrator to a parent who won't argue or won't agree with me that we have a financial problem with special education.  The real question, and I am sure I am going to be asked, is how do we get that problem under control now, and not ten years from now.  You have only to look at the children that special education serves to understand the need and the good that special education serves.  Those children need and deserve services just as any other child in our state.  We believe, however, that special education services can be provided in a more cost-effective manner, and it is time now to look to those local districts, those teachers, and those parents, and students to find better ways of delivering the services.  'In one regard, the cap has already served a positive purpose.  Those people who work in the area tell me that they have heard more creative suggestions about how to curb the growth of this program in the past week than they have heard in the past three years, and I would love to be able to tell you that I have the answers on how to run the system better, but I don't.  Those closest to the system have to be the ones to recommend and work the best changes, and we are committed, as I said, to work to remove any mandates and to allow flexibility to change the way that we are serving the special education population.  The point is we need to try something.  To say that it can't be done is simply not good enough.  We have to take charge of the program now before we


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are at such a crossroads financially that we are forced to cut, not merely.  cap.  I would like to take this time to commend the Special Education Accountability Commission for its work.  They need to continue that work and we need to study very closely their proposed pilot projects.  Our work in this area is far from over and it is a step in the right direction.  However, it is the Governor and my belief that this bill does need to become law in order to provide incentives for change to the special education program.  it is a question of creating a program which serves special education needs before a crisis ensues and the program is dismantled.  Your help and your commitment to working in this area is appreciated and we would ask that you vote LB 742 out of committee.  I thank you for your time and I'd be happy to answer any questions that anyone has at this time.


SENATOR BOHLKE:  Thank you, Lieutenant Governor Robak.  Questions from the committee?  Senator Bernard-Stevens.


SENATOR BERNARD-STEVENS:  Lieutenant Governor, your testimony conflicts with the introducer of the bill.  Her statement was, when asked, would you like to see the committee pass the bill and see it become law this year, was no.  Your statement was you'd like to see it become law.  So I am assuming that you'd like to see it passed this year as well.


LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR ROBAK:  Yes, yes, Senator, I would.


SENATOR BERNARD-STEVENS:  Okay, let's just take that for a minute, if we pass this law, is there...would we reduce in any way the number of special education students out there?




SENATOR BERNARD-STEVENS:  Would we reduce in any way...


LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR ROBAK:  Well, I take that back, Senator, let me answer that.  There is a question, as Senator McKenzie said, we would not reduce the federal mandate.  We aren't changing the federal case law.  The question is, however, whether or not we can maybe reduce some of the kids that are going into the special education system.  And I am not an expert on special education by any means, and I don't want to get into the technicalities of that with those people who have much more expertise know, but if what we can do is say to a first grader or a second grader or somebody ,in preschool, they are headed for special education but we


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don't have the resources today to put in prevention, maybe that's a better place to focus our resources than after the fact; maybe that is what we ought to be doing; and if we can look at prevention instead of after the fact, maybe that is what we could be doing.  Maybe that would reduce the number of kids that were put into special education programs.


SENATOR BERNARD-STEVENS:  I have a series of questions, let me maybe just cut to the chase.  I may be wrong but I don't see too many bills in front of us this year and particularly on those bills that I am looking at that the Governor has introduced on special education that actually come up with any solutions to special education, to our problems.


LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR ROBAK:  Senator, have been working on it for the past I am going to say 12 years, and I don't think there are solutions on the table yet.


SENATOR BERNARD-STEVENS:  Right, so, basically, what this approach is we are going to ...  we are going to threaten to put a bill through, and certainly some may say threaten, and other may say, no, we really want to do this, that will severely limit the funding in order to force people to come to the table.


LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR ROBAK:  Well, it doesn't severely limit the funding in 1995-96 because we give the exact dollar amount that was requested.  In 96-97, we then cap it at the 95-96 rate.  So there is a two-year period of time to start to work on the problem and to say, yes, let's put some of those programs into play.  So we are not severely limiting it, at least in this year.


SENATOR BERNARD-STE VENS:  So, what you're ...  let me, again, rephrase that then.  What we are trying to ...  the policy that we are doing is since the task force has not given us any major substantive changes to work with, there hasn't been anything to work with put on the table, the attitude now is let's go ahead and give them two years of their funding, the next years after that, they are going be nailed, school districts will be hit incredibly hard, and that will be the hammer necessary to make them come to the table.


LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR ROBAK:  Well, Senator, and you can look at it from that perspective but I think what we are trying to do is give...  is to say if we don't do something now, if we don't take care of this problem, if we allow it to go on for another decade because it is too difficult to look at and we can't do anything, then the next time that this comes


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up, or the next Governor that comes up, three or four terms from now, will be proposing the cuts.  We are saying now is the time to look at things differently.  I don't think that we have to say that all of a sudden we are going to have to eliminate programs or kids or we are going to raise taxes.  I believe that there are some things out there that we can be doing that this Special Education Accountability Commission has talked about, some pilot projects, and we need to give them all of the flexibility that we can.  And if there are things that we are doing that are impeding the ability to provide those services at a reduced cost, we absolutely want to provide those services at a reduced cost.  We will eliminate whatever we are doing to prevent that from happening, but something has to take place.


SENATOR BERNARD-STEVENS:  Would you agree that the task force members probably to a person agreed that something has to be done on special education because of the increase in the costs?


LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR ROBAK:  I have not spoken to the members of the task force.  My understanding is that there is a belief now, because of the bill, that something has to happen.


SENATOR BERNARD-STEVENS:  You haven't read their report that they have put out yet?


LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR ROBAK:  I have not.  I have only read...I have not read the report.  I have read summaries of it.


SENATOR BERNARD-STEVENS:  In the report, were there recommendations that would have made substantial changes in the system?


LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR ROBAK:  I don't think substantial changes.  I think that looking at as frustrated and as challenged as anybody has been over the last twelve years to say how we are going to do this, and what has happened over time is that we've tried some things and maybe they don't work any more, and so we are going to try some new things.  The point of LB 742 is to say let's try some things, let's go out there and see if we can't get them to happen.,


SENATOR BERNARD-STEVENS:  Two more questions, I think maybe just one.  The people who would be, I am thinking of government now, state government, besides the Legislature, ,certainly, we could be included in that, the Department, of


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Education, Department of Social Services, Governor's Office of Children and Family Policy, have they all met together as an executive group with input from the Legislature to say, here are our proposals that we think should be the changes made in the special education system in order to decrease the cost or to save us money.


LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR ROBAK:  No, and we can do that, Senator, but we chose not to.


SENATOR BERNARD-STEVENS:  Why have we chosen not to do that?


LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR ROBAK:  Because we believe that the change needs to come from the bottom up as opposed to from the top down.  It truly is not skirting the issue.  What we are saying is the people who deliver the services on the day-to-day basis are the people who can tell yon this isn't working, this is not cost effective, these are the things that we need to change.  It would be very easy for me or for somebody else who lives in the Capitol Building, as their job, to come and say you ought to change and this is how you ought to do it, how I think you ought to do it.  But we believe that that ought to come from, and that's why there is a two-year cap here as something that is giving some time for those types of programs to take effect.


SENATOR BERNARD-STEVENS:  For the time being that's it.  Thank you, Kim, and Madam Chair.


SENATOR BOHLKE:  Other questions?  Senator Beutler.


SENATOR BEUTLER:  Kim, you indicated earlier that you would do everything possible to end mandates.  What does that mean?


LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR ROBAK:  That means that if, for example, a school district is required to test somebody that they absolutely know needs to be in a special education program, and this is an example that I have been given, that we still have to test them.  We have to have a multidisciplinary test and a determination that they need to go into the system.  If that's the case that we are requiring it for somebody that we absolutely know needs the special education program, we will eliminate that mandate and put them in the program.


SENATOR BEUTLER:  Well, let me ask you this.  I suppose mandates in any meaningful sense with regard to what we do here at the State Legislature means anything that we require the public schools to do that is above and beyond the


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Consti....the federal constitutional mandate generally.  Would that not be so?


LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR ROBAK:  I think what you are saying, Senator, is, and correct me if I am wrong, what you are saying is that we have a requirement placed on schools to provide education for children with special needs and we are not going to change that mandate or that requirement.  That's right.


SENATOR BEUTLER:  Well, we have a series of definitions, for example...


LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR ROBAK:  Right, court decisions as well as federal law.


SENATOR BEUTLER:  Okay, those definitions may or may not be required by the federal law, right.


LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR ROBAK:  That's right.  Some of them, I think there is...  in fact, the Special Education Accountability Commission has come up with those lists, yes.


SENATOR BEUTLER:  Well, when you say you are interested in getting rid of mandates, but would you be happy if the committee simply struck all state mandates and required the school districts to provide whatever free and appropriate education is required by the Federal Constitution.  I mean .that's what doing away with mandates means, I think.


LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR ROBAK:  I think that is taking it to an extreme, Senator.  I think that you can look at anything along the continuum and one end of the continuum would be that we have complete oversight and we tell you how to function day to day, how, from the minute you walk in the door to the minute you leave the school building...


SENATOR BEUTLER:  So you are not in favor of doing away with all mandates?


LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR ROBAK:  No, I don't think to the other extreme.


SENATOR BEUTLER:  Where on the continuum are you, and what does that mean financially do you think?


LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR ROBAK:  Okay, on the continuum, that's why we say to the local, to people who are involved in the system, come to us with your mandates.  Tell us the things


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that we are requiring you to do that don't make sense, or that make you jump through too many hoops that are bureaucratic.  I cannot give you a dollar amount but I do believe that we can decrease the growth.  Currently, I think, as Senator McKenzie indicated, we grow at the rate of 10 percent compared to 3 percent for everything else.  I think we can decrease the growth.  You may not be able to completely stop the expenditure, or the growth and expenditure, but I think we can substantially decrease the growth.


SENATOR BEUTLER:  I think, if I am remembering right, there was a period of time in our history where most of this funding was done by the public schools.  And then we switched over, isn't that right?


LIEUTENANT GOVEP14OR ROBAK:  It's before...I don't.  recall, Senator.  Someone else may.


SENATOR BEUTLER:  Well, let me check on that.


LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR ROBAK:  No, they are shaking their heads no.


SENATOR BEUTLER:  Let me ask you this, when you say you want to do something before the program is dismantled.  What scenario are you thinking about that?  How would this program be dismantled?


LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR ROBAK:  I am thinking about, Senator, what happens in any instance where we are up against budget restraints, and I will take Medicaid, again, as an example.  We have no choice but to cut back on some Medicaid services because 'We cannot continue to grow at the rate that we are growing.  Despite the fact that we are cutting back on Medicaid services, we are still growing at the rate of a hundred million over the next two years, and we are cutting Medicaid services.  If we had looked at this issue a decade ago and said, gee, this is what we can do to fix the system so we are not in that predicament in ten years, perhaps we would not be cutting services today.  We don't want to cut services, Senator, we want to be able to continue to provide them, but in a more cost-effective manner.


SENATOR BEUTLER:  But Medicaid, for example, is not mandated by the United States Constitution, right?


LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR ROBAK:  No, there is no mandates to provide health care as was debated over the prior year. 


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SENATOR BEUTLER:  But this is, so I don't really understand how this is going to be dismantled.


LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR ROBAK:  Well, it can be dismantled, Senator, in terms of how much we are willing to pay for, how much taxpayers are willing to pay for, and when you look at a system and when you look at a growth, there is only so much that we can absorb in terms of cost.  And as we approach that 200 million dollar mark at a 10 percent growth when our paychecks don't increase by 10 percent and our property taxes cannot increase by 10 percent, then there is going to become a time when money that is used for other purposes are going to have to either go into special education or we are going to have to cut back on something else we are doing.  There will be a public outcry of some sort, and the system will have to either change or break down at that point in time.  I am saying we need to, and the Governor is saying we need to look at that before that happens.




SENATOR BOHLKE:  Lieutenant Governor, and I will come right back to you, Senator Wickersham, but while we are on that, are we saying that, as in Medicaid, Nebraska offers some optional services, and so unless we get a handle and do something that that is where those cuts will have to come?


LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR ROBAK:  Senator, that is very possible.  You said that much better than I did.  That's a very much of a possibility, that we do provide more services than the federal law allows, and some of those could be cut as well.


SENATOR BOHLKE:  Senator Wickersham.


SENATOR WICKERSHAM:  Well, a couple of questions, one, of course, this Medicaid area, I think many people will suggest to us that we provide the services above and beyond the federal requirements because it makes sense to do it, actually saves us money, chiropractic care, as an example.




SENATOR WICKERSHAM:  I am assuming the same kind of examples would pertain to special ed and I am not asking you to list them but...


LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR ROBAK:  I am assuming so, too, Senator,


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and I am not saying that we shouldn't do that.  And the same thing, going back to the Medicaid as the example, yes, they do make sense and that is why you do them.  It is much cheaper to pay for an aspirin than it is a prescription and that is why we pay for aspirins, but when people get upset, they want you to cut out things and we start to do things that aren't rational anymore.


SENATOR WICKERSHAM:  I was, I know you said that there was a difference between a cut and a cap as long as you get to the same dollar amount, if we are going to have a cap at $122 million or if we are going to take 125 million and we are going to cut it to 122 million.  What is the difference between a cap and a cut?  I really don't care which word you use, but you were using both of them and so...


LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR ROBAK:  Senator, right now we are not cutting any money from the special education budget in the 195-96 fiscal year.  We will cap it at that dollar amount for the next years so as to not allow for that growth.  What will happen after this biennium budget, however, is that Legislature can appropriate funds from each...  from one year to the next year, so, obviously, the Legislature can look again at the issue of funding for special education.


SENATOR WICKERSHAM:  So this might not actually result in any reduction in funding.


LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR ROBAK:  It will absolutely result in funding, the saving the $12 million dollars for the '96-97 fiscal year.  That's a $12 million increase that has been requested that would not be funded under this bill.


SENATOR WICKERSHAM:  Unless we amended it.


LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR ROBAK:  Unless you amended it, Senator.


SENATOR WICKERSHAM:  The other thing I am curious about, and it is a little bit on the analogy to the Medicaid problem, that you can try to be smart and save money and actually cost yourself a great deal of money.  I wonder if we don't have that potential with this proposal.  It seems to me that there could be two responses, or probably more responses from the system to a limitation of funds.  One, the system could become more efficient.  I don't think that is necessarily a given, could.  The other response that the system could have is that it started to deny services, and people who think they are entitled to those services could .continue to demand those services, could create an


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administrative nightmare, really, as they pursued what might be perfectly legitimate claims for services.  I think all of that would have a substantial cost.  How do you weigh the odds as to whether.  or not we are going to try to be more efficient or we are going to turn out to have an administrative nightmare with people demanding services that they are entitled to?


LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR ROBAK:  Senator, when the Governor gave his State of the State address this year, he talked about courage and the need to make changes, and we can't not make changes because we are afraid something bad might happen.  So we are willing to look at making positive changes knowing that we will look at it annually, looking at it every year to make sure that we don't turn the system upside down.  But the fear of maybe making some ...  of going in the wrong direction can't prevent us from trying to go in the right direction.  Does that answer your question?


SENATOR WICKERSHAM:  So, well, my question was really whether the odds are SO-50 that we will become more efficient, or that we will have an administrative nightmare?


LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR ROBAK:  Well, we hope that the odds are much higher that we will have a much more efficient system because we have, in all.  seriousness, have faith and confidence that the schools want to do the right thing and provide those services in the most effective, cost-effective manner.


SENATOR WICKERSHAM:  Okay, thank you.


SENATOR BOHLKE:  Senator Bernard-Stevens.


SENATOR BERNARD-STEVENS:  Kim, I want to pursue another level because, again, we've had some conflicting testimony already today.  The State of Nebraska right now, do we have more options available for special education than that technically we need from, the federal mandates?


LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR ROBAK:  And since you did have conflicting testimony, I am going to ask someone who is with me, either Pat or Tim, if you would come up and make sure that I am right on that answer.


SENATOR BERNARD-STEVENS:  I think your answer was...


LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR ROBAK:  I had said yes.  I believe that it is yes.  I just want to make sure that they are right. 


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SENATOR BERNARD-STEVENS:  Yes, okay, then my follow-up to that will be which options are we offering that technically we don't need to.


LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR ROBAK:  Okay.  I think there is a handout that, and maybe Senator McKenzie may have passed that handout out, I am not sure, I thought she was going to, that came from the Nebraska Special Education Accountability Commission, that lists specifically those that are required by federal law, those that are required by state law, and those that are required by neither, and that has those specifically listed out in there.


SENATOR BERNARD-STEVENS:  Okay, I don't think we have got it then, because I don't see it.


LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR ROBAK:  If you don't, I will make sure that that comes out.


SENATOR BERNARD-STEVENS:  How many dollars would that be if we eliminated all of the optional programs' that we do not need to offer?


LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR ROBAK:  Senator, I think it is more than eliminating optional services.  I think it is a philosophy of delivery.


SENATOR BERNARD-STEVENS:  It may be, if we eliminated all of the optional services that we don't have to by federal mandate, about how many dollars would that be?


LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR ROBAK:  I don't have any idea.


SENATOR BERNARD-STEVENS:  If we were to put the elimination of the optional programs in special ed that we do not need to fund as a state into this bill, would you still be supportive of it?


LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR ROBAK:  Excuse me, would you repeat the question.


SENATOR BERNARD-STEVENS:  Yeah, if we were to look at all of the different optional programs that we offer in the State of Nebraska that we don't have to because we don't have to by federal mandate, and we put those as an amendment into this bill, would you support it still?


LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR ROBAK:  I can't answer that question at


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this point and I will tell you why, because it may not, as Senator Wickersham said, be the best thing to do to eliminate ...  to eliminate an optional service because it may be there as a costeffective means.  The question is, is it still cost effective.  It may have been cost effective twelve years ago, or two years ago, or five years ago when it was put into place.  Is it still cost effective?  Are those the things that we ought to be eliminating?  Is there a better way to do it?  And if by eliminating all of those it is a better method of delivering services, then I would say, yes.  It may not be.


SENATOR BERNARD-STEVENS:  One final pursuit of that whole concept of comparing things to Medicaid.  I can well remember being on the Medicaid task ...  or committee where we have three chairpersons, which was interesting, but, nonetheless, it was a good...  it was an interesting combination of State Legislature, of the fiscal staff, the research staff, the Governor's Office, Mary Dean of Social Services, and if I remember right, even the Director of Social Services came up with some very interesting ways of cost containment on Medicaid services, which ones would or would not be continued, paid, and so on.  Why is, all of a sudden, is this one different?  Why can't we come from the top and say here is what we suggest the structural changes to be made as a leadership portion, and then throw those out to those at the bottom, if we want to call those at the bottom, but those that are in the trenches, and say if you don't agree with these changes, come back with your other proposals, otherwise, we go forward with these?  Why do we have to just put the hammer with money and no guidance, no leadership from the top?  I mean that includes, me, too.


LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR ROBAK:  Okay, well, I don't consider it no guidance, no leadership.  Let me get back on the Medicaid side.  If you will look at what happened, number one, we weren't terribly successful in getting much through the Legislature, nor have we been terribly successful in what we've ...  our programs to promote some of the savings through Medicaid.  I think the things that we were most successful on are the ones we worked with the providers on, people who are actually out in the field and dealt with those people who are delivering the services via the department.  So I think that the same thing should happen on this side.  The same thing with almost any rules or regulations that come out of state government, the ones that work the best are the ones that we go out and actually deal with the people who are in the trenches, and to come up with those rules and regulations.  So... 


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SENATOR BERNARD-STEVENS:  Final sequence, that I just want to make sure we are clear, a comment that Senator Bohlke made, on the Governor's budget presented to the Legislature and submitted to the Appropriations Committee last week in a series of bills, it was ...  if we go out in the other biennium, the amounts that the Governor took as savings from the passage of this bill would have been about how much?


LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR ROBAK:  It would be $12 million over the biennium.


SENATOR BERNARD-STEVENS:  Okay, so that 12 million plus about the seven to eight million that might be saved on if the committee reduced...if we would have reduced the money for the wards of the state education, that was about, you add that together and that is about $20 million.  That $20 million I assume was parts of the overall Governor's budget to try to afford ...  to find money for the tax cut proposal, would that be fair to say that that's in the scheme of...not scheme, that's in the planning of how to find monies for that?


LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR ROBAK:  The Governor is committed to finding those revenues but, yes, it is part of the entire Governor's budget, yes.


SENATOR BERNARD-STEVENS:  Okay, but then to follow the question, though, the Appropriations Committee, if you look at what they have on laws on the books, their numbers across, not only this biennium, but the next one and the following one, have the special education numbers already included as if we were going to pay what the guesstimated increases, is that correct?


LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR ROBAK:  I don't know.  That very well may be.


SENATOR BERNARD-STEVENS:  Yeah, okay, assuming that that is correct, and it is, the point being made is that when the Legislature hears about the deficit from the Appropriations Committee, that's with the special education fund and the projected increases built in.  So if this bill were not passed, it would be true that the Governor's proposed budget would be 12 million out of kilt, but it is not necessarily true that the Appropriations Committee's budget that we'd be working with is 12 million out of kilt?  So when we say we need to find $12 million, technically the Governor would need to find $12 million to make the budget work.  The


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appropriations process would still be the same, would that be fair.


LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR ROBAK:  It would just depend on how much of the Appropriations Committee ...  how much of the Governor's budget the Appropriations Committee determines that they want to support.


SENATOR BERNARD-STEVENS:  That's good.  Okay, thank you.


SENATOR BOHLKE:  Thank you, Senator Bernard-Stevens, for making that clear.  It is always beneficial to have a former member of the Appropriations Committee on the Education Committee.  So that was helpful, thank you.  Other questions?  Senator Stuhr.


SENATOR STUHR:  I just have one brief one.  Could you explain a little bit about the Special Education Accountability Commission.  When was it formed?  How many members?  What was their charge?  You know.


LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR ROBAK:  I may need some help on this as well so if somebody who can come up and help me.  It was created in 1983 (sic).  I believe Senator Rasmussen had introduced a bill for the purpose of looking at special education.  Let me tell you a little bit about the background that I am aware of, and then...  I do not know how many members are on the commission, but there was a span of frustration, a growing frustration for as long as anyone can remember that somehow we needed to get a handle on the growth of special education.  They had a three year charge.  The first year was to study the system and to come up with some ideas.  The second year they were supposed to implement some pilot projects in order to determine if we could make some changes, and the third year to evaluate.  We are coming close to be beginning ...  the third year will begin this year so we will finish our second year.  We do not ...  we have pilot projects suggested; we have no pilot projects implemented, and, hopefully, we can continue to move forward, but to move forward at a little faster pace.


SENATOR BOHLKE:  Other questions?  I see none.  Thank you very much.


LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR ROBAK:  Thank you, Senator.  I appreciate your patience today.


SENATOR BOHLKE:  May I Bee a show of hands of those who are going to want to testify in support of the bill.  Support. 


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We are on 742, so just on 742.  Those who want to testify in opposition to 742.  1 am seeing ...  those neutral.  I am seeing about 14, so, once again, if you could try to look at about two minutes, that would be helpful, realizing you may, if you are here with other people, you may want to negotiate that with each other, but that's allowing some time for the committee to ask questions, and to finish up by ...  we are a half an hour late almost starting and everything, so instead of ...  actually we need to be done by about four-fifteen.  So if you will try to meet that guideline.  Therefore, anyone...  I didn't see anyone raise their hand, but anyone wanting to testify in support.  All right, then we will move right along to opposition, and I know you have all signed in for that to help save time and please come forward.


EILEEN HARVEY:  Good afternoon, Senator Bohlke and Members of the Education Committee.  My name is Eileen, E-i-l-e-e-n, Harvey, H-a-r-v-e-y.  And I am here today on behalf of the Nebraska Speech, Language and Hearing Association.  We represent some 500 speech, language pathologists and audiologists and an estimated 10 percent of Nebraskans who are communication impaired.  Can you hear me?  Can you hear me now?  I am probably taller than some of the people who sat here before.  I am here today to voice opposition to LB 742 and, briefly, to save time later I will also voice support for LB 623, while 1 am here.  Let me speak to LB 742.  We see several potential problems and some of them have been alluded to already by the senators who were asking the questions.  First of all, spending cuts or spending caps by the state government will undoubtedly result in cuts to service.  I think it is naive to think otherwise, and as Senator Bohlke pointed out when she spoke earlier, education at an early age pays for itself many times over.  She cited the 7 to 1 for early childhood and I don't know what it would be for K to 12, but I think that we can assume that a decrease in education to challenged children will lead to an increase in joblessness, homelessness, crime, welfare and teen pregnancy, and I doubt that there are many who would state otherwise.  We also have some more specific concerns about this bill.  As Senator Wickersham implied, since appropriate education is mandated-by both federal law and state law, a cut in state funding will leave local school districts open to advocate litigation, and this is a concern to.  us.  It seems to us callous, if not irresponsible leadership, to mandate services and then not fund them.  Thirdly, we predict the migration of severely handicapped children to urban metro areas as a result of a cut or a cap in state funding, placing an unfair tax burden on Omaha and Lincoln because I think that the local school districts will


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be forced to pick up the cost of special education; many of them won't be able to afford it and we'll see migration.  As I read this law, and please correct me if I am wrong, level one services, which are three hours and under, of special education services will be little, if any, affected.  Mainly what we are talking about is severely and multiply handicapped children.  Fourth, we predict an increase in difficulty in placing handicapped foster children as local school districts will certainly be reluctant to serve these children in their local schools.  And, fifth, we predict an increase in local taxes and we fear an advent of local hostility to the children who need special education and their families because of this.  Rather, we would prefer to see LB 623 voted onward in search of better ways to cut costs.  So, Senator Bohlke, and members of the Education Committee, we urge you to pass LB 623, and drop LB 742.  1 would take any questions.


SENATOR BOHLKE:  Thank you.  Eileen, when we, and you heard the answer about speech pathology and language development as opposed to what we used to do with articulation problems.


EILEEN HARVEY:  Yes, um-hum.


SENATOR BOHLKE:  That has been a change in philosophy in speech pathology over the last 15, 20 years, 15 years.


EILEEN HARVEY:  I think that we have recognized language disorders as the severe communication impairment that they are equal to, in many cases, articulation so added them to the caseload, yes.


SENATOR BOHLKE:  Well, language disorders I think, you know, were always there and identified, but then do we now have speech pathology go into, say, the entire kindergarten class, the entire first grade class for language development, when previously the classroom teacher would have done that?


EILEEN HARVEY:  I can't answer that, Senator Bohlke.  I, personally, am not involved in the school systems myself.


SENATOR BOHLKE:  Okay, I can ask someone else.




SENATOR BOHLKE:  Thank you.  Any other questions from the committee?  Senator Warner. 


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SENATOR WARNER:  Do you have any other suggestions of things that might be done to curtail costs and growth besides 623?  That you spend more to spend less, as I read the.  fiscal note.


EILEEN HARVEY:  Well, I would ...  um-hum, I agree that it is a very serious problem and that we need to look closely at it, and I think that the members of the Special Education Accountability Commission are probably best prepared and best suited to look closely at those answers.


SENATOR WARNER:  But as of now, there is nothing that anybody can think of that might restrict the growth.


EILEEN HARVEY:  That would restrict the growth?


SENATOR WARNER:  I think all we're talking about is trying to get the growth contained.




SENATOR WARNER:  Well, a cap does more than that.


EILEEN HARVEY:  Um-hum, well, I think that as one of the earlier speakers alluded to we are seeing a decrease in the population of children.  However, because some of the early medical advances or infant advances in keeping premature babies and such alive, I think we will continue to see an increase in severely and multiply handicapped children coming into our school districts, and these are the children who present the heaviest burden, I think, to the very small school district who very often are not prepared for that one or two child, children, who are seriously handicapped and who are very expensive to take care of.  And I think that's where we will see the suits come and the hostility, and a lot of the problems if we move the burden for those individual kids, as this bill will, to the local level instead of the state level.


SENATOR BOHLKE:  Eileen, I agree with you on that point that we are going to see more children coming with greater needs and more serious needs.  If that's true, then are we going to see the cost of special education...  if we think that they are serious today, have we not even then begun to see, if you were going to graph it, is that true?  Are those costs even going to be...  follow a more severe line?


EILEEN HARVEY:  Senator Bohlke, I would challenge the presupposition that we need to look at education as


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something that we would cut.  I think that education as a goal for our society is of primary important, and that if we are going to cut costs, if we are going to cut our budget, that it should not be in the area of education of our children.  I think that would be a serious mistake as a government and as a civilization.


SENATOR BOHLKE:  Thank you, but then I have got to follow that up, if, I mean, if we only have so much money, and we talked about what is happening, and special education is my background, but what are we going to do?  I mean I think that we are going to have a lot of people come up and testify why we shouldn't ...  why this bill shouldn't be passed out of committee and I think it will give us the opportunity to have the dialogue which, with each person maybe should be prepared as-to what is your suggestion?  I mean we know the facts of what you say.  I agree.  I think the cost is going to continue...


EILEEN HARVEY:  I do too...  and I think we need to examine our priorities, and I think education needs to be a top priority.


SENATOR BOHLKE:  So we should continue to fund those costs in special education.




SENATOR BOHLKE:  And then we would look at health care or, you know, crime, prisons, cut those places.


EILEEN HARVEY:  I can't speak specifically to those issues but I do think that we do need to continue to make education, and particularly special education, a priority.  And as you, yourself, pointed out earlier, that if we don't spend the money in education now, both in special education and regular education, what costs will we be paying when this generation becomes adults, both on an individual level, but also as a country.


SENATOR BOHLKE:  Thank you, and I don't see any other questions.  Sometimes the first testifier is the one that gets the most questions.  You know, when you come back and see us again, you may want to be the second or third person.


EILEEN HARVEY:  Thank you.


SENATOR BOHLKE:  Thank you. 


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RICHARD SCHOONOVER:  Senator Bohlke, members of the Education Committee.  Good afternoon.  I Will try to keep my comments brief.  My name is Richard Schoonover.  I am the Director of Special Services for the Bellevue Public Schools.  I am here today to represent the Nebraska Council of School Administrators in opposition to LB 742.  Our state has a distinguished history of providing efficient and quality special education services to children with disabilities.  The current special education laws, regulations, and reimbursement system has allowed Nebraska to develop these services and effectively manage the continuum of services to our children with disabilities.  Legislative Bill 742 represents a departure from our current educational philosophy and one which can only have a negative impact upon those most concerned, children with disabilities.  The Nebraska Council of School Administrators and its membership are willing to work with the Legislature, the Governor, and the Nebraska Department of Education to address any concerns you may have about the current special education delivery system.  Historically, we have been involved, many of us were involved in LR 151.  We have been involved in the establishment of the Special Education Accountability Commission.  In fact, legislation encouraged by the council was merged with LB 520, that was introduced by Senator Rasmussen, to create the Accountability Commission, and as members of our organization, and as individual school district administrators, we are committed to working with you.  Nebraska districts have always been committed to meeting the needs of special education students and we are also committed to carry out the mandates as prescribed by both state and federal law.  On behalf of the Nebraska Council of School Administrators, I am asking this committee to indefinitely postpone LB 742, and I'd be very happy to respond to any questions you may have.  Earlier you had asked questions about mandates and that sort of thing, and if you have some questions I will do my best to answer them.  (Exhibit H)


SENATOR BOHLKE:  Thank you.  Questions from the committee?  Mr. Schoonover, do you offer inclusion in special education in the Bellevue Schools?


RICHARD SCHOONOVER:  Yes, we do.  We do inclusion on a student by student basis.


SENATOR BOHLKE:  And is that more expensive?


RICHARD SCHOONOVER:  I wouldn't necessarily say it is more expensive.  I don't believe it's ...  probably expenditure


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neutral, perhaps.  When you look at special education, the factors you are dealing with when you design a program, which also has an impact on the cost, is the number of students, the degree of need, and the location of those students in the scheduling of your staff.  With inclusion, that doesn't necessarily change those variables.  In fact, if anything, it might increase the number of locations where you have to deliver those services; for instance, maybe in eight classrooms versus maybe one resource room.  So it might stretch your staff a little thinner and could, in fact, at some point in time, lead to some staff increases I suppose.


SENATOR BOHLKE:  I was going to say, the building I visited, in one building they had hired five additional staff.  You haven't had to...


RICHARD SCHOONOVER:  In the Bellevue School District?




RICHARD SCHOONOVER:  Oh, oh, okay.  I was going to say ...  oh, I am sorry, go ahead.


SENATOR BOHLKE:  You didn't ...  you haven't had to hire any additional staff?


RICHARD SCHOONOVER:  We have not hired additional staff because of inclusion.  We have hired additional staff because of increased numbers.


SENATOR BOHLKE:  Am I not understanding, when you do inclusion, an extra person is sent into the classroom with the student?


RICHARD SCHOONOVER:  That model is one of the approaches to inclusion.  What we have done in our district is the inclusion, the students who are in inclusive classroom, and keep in mind, we do not have an inclusive special education program.  We deal with...we deal with inclusion on a student by student basis.  So if that student, if it is appropriate for that student to be in an inclusionary program, spend his time in a regular classroom, we will take the services into that classroom for that student, but we do have resource programs that are pull out.  We also do have some special education classrooms still in existence, and we do a lot of inclusion too, but we have not went exclusively to an inclusion program. 


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SENATOR BOHLKE:  Thank you.  Senator Warner.


SENATOR WARNER:  Yes, I will keep asking, do you have any specific suggestions as to how costs could be contained to grow at the same rate as the growth in state receipts, which are about 5 percent a year, or 5.5, as opposed to 10?


RICHARD SCHOONOVER:  The...  earlier I mentioned that the ingredients that control the staff levels for special education is student numbers, and so if you want to reduce the costs or to limit the cost to 5 percent or 6 percent, or whatever percentage you want to select, you would have to come up with a scheme that would limit the growth of student population to that percentage.


SENATOR WARNER:  Are you talking about the growth of student population in the state, as a whole, or are you talking about the growth of students in Bellevue, or are you talking about growth only in special ed students?


RICHARD SCHOONOVER:  I was talking about growth only in special education population, that you would have to limit that.


SENATOR WARNER:  Unrelated to the general growth of students, and why do you account that special ed students have grown?




SENATOR WARNER:  I you are only talking about growth in special ed students, why, what, why are they growing more rapidly than the student population generally?


RICHARD SCHOONOVER:  Well, in special education, you identify your population based on a student by student assessment.  There has been a lot of discussion as why to the growth of special education numbers.  Some of that is attributed to the practices in our society of people abusing chemicals.  Some of it is attributed to the advancement in medical treatment that allows some -children to live productive lives and to grow up who previously would not have done that.  So it's a combination of factors.  I think another factor that is thrown in there probably is the sensitivity and the awareness of teaching staff of the individual needs of students and wanting to do more for students.


SENATOR WARNER:  And it is fair to say then there probably


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is nothing that can be done to curtail the costs growth?


RICHARD SCHOONOVER:  The only...  the only way I know of to truly contain the growth of special education is to deal with either ...  you have two issues to deal with.  Number one, you can limit the number of students who can be identified in a district for special education purposes.  You know you can you can identify X percentage of population.  That will not mean that there are not students outside that percentage who have disability.  That is one approach.  The other approach you can use is to deal with the caseload on the part of staff, how many students can a staff work with.  And Rule 51 already has those guidelines in place.  School districts have to meet the caseload requirements as within Rule 51, and so if you wanted to do that, then you would have to go back in there and deal with that, with those caseload issues.  Earlier, someone asked about federal mandates, and Bellevue is one of the pilot programs, early childhood program, we've already the program, we are very supportive of that program, so this is not a recommendation from our organization or from me, okay, but the one federal government that is in existence, one state mandate that's in existence and is not a federal mandate is the zero to three program.  And, believe me, we are not recommending that that be eliminated, okay, but that is an example of one state mandate that is not a federal mandate.  Most of the other mandates differences do not have a major impact on cost.


SENATOR BOHLKE:  Other questions?  Thank you, and thank you for coming.


RICHARD SCHOONOVER:  Thank you very much, and I am going to work with you.  Thank you very much.


MARTHA FRICKE:  Good afternoon, Senator Bohlke, members of the Education Committee.  My name is Martha Fricke.  I am the Director of Government Relations for the Nebraska Association of School Boards.  Because the membership of NASB has great concerns for the rapid growth of special education costs, it is difficult for us to oppose LB 742.  However, the repercussions that could take place if this lid is placed would affect all of public education, we feel, not just special ed.  The committee knows, I am sure, that services to special children arc mandated by both federal and state governments, and it is also known that the State of Nebraska has some rules that go beyond the federal mandates, particularly in the zero to three age group.  The Governor has said that he will see what state mandates could be removed and we thank him for that relief.  We would ask


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that the exact amount of that relief be furnished to see if it would cover the funds which would be lost under the cap.  We also would point out that the U.S.  Congress is currently working on the reauthorization of the Individuals with Disability Education Act, known IDEA, I-D-E-A, which could change the federal mandates regarding special ed.  This reauthorization will probably not be completed until late in this year, and we would suggest waiting until that is final to discuss what we can do in Nebraska because any actions that we might take now could be completely changed by whatever the feds come up with in that reauthorization.  One of the suggestions that is being made to the federal government to help contain costs is that in related services.  Related services, for you information, is ...  are all of those things that we say may not relate to education.  These are health items.  this is the nurse, this is the catheterization.  This is all of those type of things.  The National School Boards Association has asked that Congress take a really good look at those services.  If those could be removed from education costs, we could see a lowering of costs.  of course, just for your information, they would probably move to Medicaid.  So then you can address it somewhere else.  NASB has had concerns for many years about ,the awarding of attorneys' fees in special ed litigation, and also the fact that the State Department of Education cannot be made a party to litigation concerning the rules and regulations, which they have promulgated and placed on the schools.  Both of these items raise the cost of special education, and we would request that they be made part of any discussion.  Finally, we must opposed LB 742 because we oppose lids of all kinds, and this lie.  would be especially onerous because it could cause parents to oppose other parents concerning which children receive the shrinking funds.  We would ask that this whole matter of special education be discussed by all groups affected without the threat of a lid.  Please indefinitely postpone LB 742.  And while I am here, I would also say that I would like to support LB 623, so that will save a little time.  I'd be happy to answer any questions.


SENATOR BOHLKE:  Thank you, Martha.  Are there any questions from the committee?  Senator Beutler.


SENATOR BEUTLER:  Is there anything to be said for changing the percentage as opposed to capping the fund?


MARTHA FRICKE:  Changing the percentage of...


SENATOR BEUTLER:  State contributions. 


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MARTHA FRICKE:  I guess I don't understand what the difference would be.  I mean if you cap it, you change the percentage, right?


SENATOR BEUTLER:  Yeah, but if you change it to 80 percent, for example, it will always be 80 percent.


MARTHA FRICKE:  It is close to 80 percent right now, Senator.


SENATOR BEUTLER:  Well, if you change it to 70 percent like that...




SENATOR BEUTLER:  ...  it will always be 70 percent, right, until we change it again.  If you cap it, it is going to continually go down.  If what we're, as a percentage, if what we are saying is...  if what we're hypothesizing is true with respect to increased costs in the future, right?


MARTHA FRICKE:  Yes, I would say that either would be just as disastrous.  I am not going to choose which one would be best.  I don't think either one is good.


SENATOR BEUTLER:  Do you feel that the level of state contributions that exist right now that the school districts are doing everything possible to keep costs down?


MARTHA FRICKE:  I am certain, Senator, that, you know, we could run across the state and find places where perhaps they are not doing everything they can.  I would certainly hope that they are.  But I also think that you need to understand, and I am sure you do because you have been around here at different times when we've discussed this, that the there is a very powerful lobby out there who are special education parents, and receivers of this aid, and they are very difficult to say, no, you can't have these services anymore.  So I guess if you were going to ask that the school districts be brave enough to face that and to deny what some parents are asking for their children, then I would hope that the Legislature would also be that brave.  It is not an easy task.




SENATOR BOHLKE:  Martha, when you say the attorneys' fees and the state not being held accountable, and you would like


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to be able to see the state have some liability, that really doesn't save money because it just...  I mean it saves the local school districts money but that is...


MARTHA FRICKE:  It would save in the reimbursement.


SENATOR BOHLKE:  ...  it's a shift...


MARTHA FRICKE:  Yes, of course it would.  I mean isn't everything a shift?


SENATOR BOHLKE:  I hope not.


MARTHA FRICKE:  But what I am saying is that ...  well, the cap would cause a shift.  It would cause a shift from state funds to local funds.  There is another shift.


SENATOR BOHLKE:  Other questions?


MARTHA FRICKE:  Thank you.




LOVEDA MITCHELL:  Good afternoon, Senator Bohlke..  and members of the Education Committee.  My name is Loveda Mitchell and I am here today in a dual capacity; first, as the mother of a son who receives special education services, (interruption), anyway, receives special education services through the Lincoln Public School System, and the second as the chairperson of the Arc of Nebraska's Education Committee.  In both capacities, I speak in very strong opposition of 742.  We believe LB 742 is premature and could have a very negative impact upon the lives of students with disabilities.  There are many reasons why we feel this bill should be killed by this committee.  Let me preface my arguments against 742 by saying this; The Arc of Nebraska understands that the escalating special education costs need to be studied and addressed.  This bill, however, is not the solution.  In recent history, the State Legislature called for the formation of the Special Education Accountability Commission.  This commission was charged with forming recommendations to bring rising state special education costs down to a level of growth comparable with general education costs.  My first argument against 742 is that it is premature.  The Special Education Accountability Commission was created to exist for at least one more year.  Why don't we let them complete their task before we take drastic action that has unknown and probably very detrimental ramifications.  A second argument against LB 742


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is that Nebraska schools, neighborhoods and communities will become less accepting of people with disabilities.  As a parent of a son who has made tremendous progress through inclusive educational practices, this concerns me gravely.  As you know, this bill would push costs onto the back of local school districts and property owners.  One of two things is likely to occur; either need services will be cut and compromised or property taxpayers will revolt.  I think we have seen evidence of that across our state already.  Unless you have been the parent of a child with a disability, you cannot imagine the pain that will come with watching your child's abilities diminish and dreams vanish because of inadequate education.  Discrimination, injustice, inequity and intolerance are already painful realities for special education students and family members and will dramatically increase with the passage of LB 742.  Experience has demonstrated that our children will become the scapegoat for all rising educational costs.  This is hard to accept when all we are asking for our children is to receive the same educational opportunities as other children who attend neighborhood schools.  Now we have heard a lot of scuttlebutt today was that this was not one reason for this bill, and one of the things that we've heard, is probably the same you have, is about local schools abusing the system.  It is being suggested that local school districts place a disability label on students who should not be' labeled, provide them with very minimal services and pull down the maximum amount of state money.  Has anyone proven any of these allegations?  And if these allegations are true, then why penalize students with disabilities with the bill.  Locate the offenders, stiffen the penalty for misuse of state funds, but don't penalize those students who deserve special education services which comply with state and federal law.  Legislative Bill 742 will not stop any abuse of the system.  We do not deny the need to studies that give an efficient expenditure of state funds to special education services.  Let us identify the causes of the rising cost of special education and formulate a solution based on documented reasons, not on allegations.  Let the study go forward and let's review the report and the recommendations.  And if this is going to be done for special education, let's do it for general education also.  General education constitutes a far greater sum of money and it would be fair to assume that there are inefficiencies within the general education framework also.  Please let the Special Education Accountability Commission complete, their work.  Legislative Bill 742 is a generalized solution for specific problems.  It is drastic, premature and dangerous.  As adults, we have a responsibility to all our children of


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making mature decisions based on facts not suppositions, biases or emotions.  On behalf of my son, my family, and all of the families represented by The Arc of Nebraska, I urge the committee to kill LB 742.  (Exhibit I) In light of some comments made earlier, I would like to add just a little bit to my testimony.  One thing was the suggestion that costs could be saved by cutting optional state services.  When Rule 51 was last reviewed, I don't remember that there were very many optional state services left in.  I am not saying that there aren't a lot, but I would like to see how much money would be saved before one could jump on a bandwagon and say that this is a way of saving costs.  And I think in order to save costs, we are going to have to look at each one of the services that are delivered to children on an individual basis.  Is that service necessary in that manner to.  that child?  And is it helping that child obtain an education?  I am not sure that a blanket approach is going to work, and I know a cap is not going to work.  I'd entertain any questions.


SENATOR BOHLKE:  Questions.  Senator Warner.


SENATOR WARNER:  Your suggestion of, which sounds like a very reasonable, to review each child as to whether or not the appropriate or necessary service, I suppose, offered.  That's the responsibility of the school system now, rather the school staff I assume, right?


LOVEDA MITCHELL:  Well, you know, it goes on and on.


SENATOR WARNER:  That's the next question I was going to lead to was, are you suggesting that the state should be developing some auditing system to go in and reject where they...


LOVEDA MITCHELL:  That's one suggestion.


SENATOR WARNER:  ...  felt that it is not necessary.


LOVEDA MITCHELL:  That's one suggestion but the other is not...  is also in areas where there is not an implied misuse.  It is just thinking with common sense, are some of these things necessary.  One example might be from my own son, my own son, at one time, he was in an adaptive PE class.  And we said, you know, he doesn't really need to be here.  He can be in a regular education class.  He is a klutz, but then so am I, so what's the difference.  I guess that's one thing review, do all the kids that are...  and I am using adaptive PE as an example, I don't have anything against it,


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are all the kids receiving that service in there because they need it on an individual basis, or because they have to carry a certain label?  Another thing might be some of our testing, we have, went blank on the word, every three years the child has to be reverified, but is some of our testing very really necessary.  My son has mental retardation.  We do an IQ test every year...  every three years, which takes hours of a psychologist's time.  It gives us a number.  We get in a big argument every year ...  every three years and it doesn't seem to accomplish anything, and that is also the teacher's opinion, as well as my own.  What I am saying, maybe we need to just reevaluate some of the things we are doing.


SENATOR WARNER:  I would assume in that, and I don't want to take the time, but I assume in that case the theory is that this is a process of determining if the child does not need to be in that class, so that I assume that (interruption) ...


LOVEDA MITCHELL:  That is part of it, but to take my son, he is going to have to jump an awful long ways to be out of special education in IQ, you know.


SENATOR WARNER:  ...  suggesting in some cases that obviously is not necessary, because you know that this is appropriate thing.


LOVEDA MITCHELL:  Yes, as I say, for some cases, it would be an appropriate thing.


SENATOR BOHLKE:  Thank you for coming.  Next.


VERNITA GARRIOT:  My name is Vernita Garriot.  I seem to be among the unique ones here today, not representing an agency.  I have a masters degree from the University of Nebraska, here in Lincoln, and I've got 20 years of experience working with children with disabilities, nine of which I have adopted.  Most of those prior to me have talked about the situation and what can and can't be accomplished.  I wanted to share with you the story of some of the kids, a couple of the kids we've worked with.  Christian was born with no feet, no hands, a cleft palate, fifth and sixth cranial nerve damage, only 20 percent of his tongue, a mild hearing loss, and at the age of six, he was diagnosed with one of those speech and language learning disabilities that you were discussing earlier.  Your early childhood program, he was served in a Head Start Program prior to beginning school, and that may be a, suggestion for some of your reduced costs in special education is that some of the more


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mildly handicapped children could be served by Head Start because their rules require a 10 percent service to handicapped children, and some of the speech and language handicapped children and some of the other disabled kids would fit there.  Christian received special education services from age three in occupational physical therapy, speech therapy, and some resource room pull out for reading and math, and content area classes.  He, by the time he was a senior in high school he no longer needed special education services and graduated from Grand Island Senior High last 'year.  He is a freshman at the University of Nebraska Kearney campus this year with a 3.1 grade point average.  During the summers and after school, he's held jobs with Wal-Mart, YWCA, Almost Calm, YMCA Camp Kitaki, and most recently with Easter Seals camp at Milford.  He hopes this summer to go back as their head cabin leader and pursue a career in recreation therapy.  This young man is Victor...Victor was born as one of the medically fragile children that you were discussing.  He was born at 26 weeks, weighed one pound, weighted 8 ounces the second day.  Victor came to us at 18 months old when he weighed 12 pounds.  At the time the special education department and I saw him, we thought he would never live to be two years old.  Today he is in a full inclusion classroom as a kindergartener at Saratoga ...  or at Shoemaker School in Grand Island, and receives the regular education program, although is cognitively delayed, blind, and has cerebral palsy.  Of the nine children that we have adopted, three are victims of severe child abuse.  They would not have been handicapped had someone intervened in the family sooner.  And within the last few months in Grand Island, there are four more children, and I mean we are talking about probably within the last twelve months, there are four more children who have been handicapped as severely or more severely than this child because of child abuse, and that may be another direction that the Education Committee and the Accountability Commission may wish to work with the Department of Social Services, that would have been seven children not having to be served by special education services.  I, forty years ago, I began school in what today mostly is called a full inclusion program.  I was one of the borderline children that might or might not receive services.  There were no services for me because I am visually handicapped.  I am legally blind.  Consequently, since there were no services, I can't read print and I can't read Braille.  I wanted to be an attorney, and if you can't read.  any of those, then you can't be an attorney or do a lot of things that need to be done.  It took several months of adult rehabilitation services, which was far more expensive


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than regular education would have been.  Most of the rest of the stuff I had intended to say, everybody else has said ahead of me and I don't see any reason to repeat it.  Is there anything that I could answer or ask that would be of benefit to you?


SENATOR BOHLKE:  Are there questions from the committee?  No one has a question.  Thank you for your testimony.


KAY CATTLE:  Senator Bohlke, and members of the Education Committee, I am Kay Cattle and I am Chairperson of the Nebraska Interagency Coordinating Council.  The Council is Governor appointed and is charged with advising on the provision of early intervention services for children, from birth to three in Nebraska.  I am here today to oppose LB 742 on the Council's behalf.  The Council, in cooperation with the co-lead agencies, the Nebraska Department of Education and the Department of Social Services will have successfully implemented the Nebraska Early Intervention Act, formerly LB 520, by June of 1995.  This effort is a model of interagency collaboration and a partnership between state agencies and communities.  It values families as equal partners, recognizing that their input at every planning step is vital to program success.  The program has built its foundation on Nebraska's provision of special education services.  Nebraska has long been a birth mandate state in its provision of educational services for infants and toddlers eligible for special education services.  And now, these families with children from birth to three, who have qualified for special education services, can receive services coordination to assist them in assessing community-based services to meet their child's needs as identified in their individual Family Services Plan.  This is a crucial time for families who are receiving services including services coordination to assist them.  At this time, when extensive planning and outreach and services coordination is being done to assist families, it would seem unwise to thwart the relationship between the school and the family.  '"his will create additional stress with concern over funding the educational services that the child with a disability is, by law, entitled to receive.  By changing the Nebraska reimbursement formula for special education, a tension will be created between those, whose family members are receiving the services, and the school district, who is obligated to provide those services.  It would be unwise to now change that funding relationship between the state and school districts, at a time when district, state and local agencies and communities ate working hard to put in place this progressive and family friendly system.  The Council


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objects to jeopardizing the funding for the essential special education components of these family plans.  This proposed funding shift will cause uncertainty.  It would most certainly cause the school districts to have to seek other funding through other means to provide these essential educational services that these very young Nebraskans are receiving.  Nebraska has recognized the need to support families and their children.  These Nebraskans are receiving special education services at a critical time in their life.  This allows their family to meet head on issues that affects their child's development.  And, most importantly, these educational services can prevent future more costly human service needs.  We ask, the Nebraska Interagency Coordinating Council, that LB 742 not be forwarded to the full Legislature and be indefinitely postponed by the committee.  (Exhibit J) And as a person who has worked for many, many years with the birth to three population, even though it has not been a federal mandate, it is now through ...  allowable through the federal law* that all 50 states have now opted to serve the birth to three population, so I would hope that the committee would not consider that as an option to cut the costs.  We do really look at the effectiveness of early childhood services as were stated in the two previous bills that were heard, and I would recommend highly that you continue serving this population.  As you probably know, in serving these birth to three, the families, we have worked in collaborating with other agencies, and that might be an option for trying to cut down some costs and working to see at the local community, with the other agencies involved, what can be done to provide the services.  Even though the special education services continue, as Rule 51 allows, working closely in community-based programs can often cut the cost.  Are there any questions?


SENATOR BOHLKE:  Any questions?  I see none.  Thank you.  We have about seven minutes, that is going beyond our four-fifteen limit anyway.


DON ANDERSON:  Senator Bohlke, members of the Education Committee.  I am Don Anderson, administrator in the Department of Education, Special Populations Office.  I am testifying on behalf of the department.  At its February meeting, the, State Board of Education voted to oppose LB 742, as it is currently written.  If the provisions of 742 would be enacted, the percent of reimbursement or funding to school districts and approved cooperatives for school age and early childhood special education programs would be determined by the amount appropriated.  The same


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reimbursement system would be maintained which allows limited program flexibility for school districts and approved cooperatives.  Individuals closest to the child, the parents, educators, and the child when appropriate, are in the best position to make program decisions for individual children.  State special education reimbursement and funding systems should be as program neutral as possible and should not drive individual program decisions for children.  Reimbursement and funding systems should allow school districts and approved cooperatives the flexibility to make program decisions based on individual needs rather than standardized eligibility criteria.  I have three recommendations.  One, implement the concept outlined in Nebraska Revised Statute 79-3367, Special Education Accountability Commission:  Primary Goal.  This would allow the growth rate of special education reimbursement and funding and the state appropriation to increase at the rate of the average annual education growth rate.  Two, include an allowable, reimbursable, funded cost that would provide school districts and approved cooperatives the flexibility to make program decisions for some children based on their needs exclusive of any standardized eligibility criteria or special education categorization.  And, three, specifics regarding distribution of reimbursement and funding to school districts and approved cooperatives and the percent of state special education appropriation to be used for program flexibility initiatives outlined in recommendation number two would be developed through the rule development process before the State Board of Education.  I thank you for the opportunity to provide this testimony, and I would be glad to answer any questions you may have.  (Exhibit L)


SENATOR BOHLKE:  Questions from the committee.  Senator Warner.


SENATOR WARNER:  Which one of these recommendations will reduce costs?


DON ANDERSON:  The first one actually allows the appropriation and, therefore, the reimbursement and funding to increase at the same level that general education would be increased.




DON ANDERSON:  And then the other two are kind of tied into it, but then it also, as you are aware, we have allowable reimbursable items currently in Rule 51 that we pay for in special education but it is very categorically oriented. 


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SENATOR WARNER:  How do you guarantee that special ed grows at the same rate as the average annual education rate?


DON ANDERSON:  What we would do is amend LB 742 to include some language that would allow growth of the appropriation at the same rate that general education is increasing, and that figure would be arrived from the annual finance report the school districts submitted to us, which is not current year information but it probably be two to three...


SENATOR WARNER:  That's been like 6.5 percent.


DON ANDERSON:  Yeah, about 6 percent, I think is the average it has been over the years versus what we heard, 10 percent.


SENATOR WARNER:  So where does the reduction come from 10 to 6, that is 4 percent, how...


DON ANDERSON:  Okay, that's where two and three come in.  Two allows some program flexibility, and what that does is allow school districts and approved cooperatives to initiate programs that would meet the students' needs prior to referral and hopefully meet their needs before the need for special education occurs.  It is more of a preventive type of approach then waiting until there is a discrepancy in the learning and meeting the eligibility criteria that is currently in Rule 51.


SENATOR BOHLKE:  Other questions?  I see none.


DON ANDERSON:  I would be glad to work on markups that 742 has tried to accomplish, any of these recommendations, if anyone would like that.


SENATOR BOHLKE:  All right, thank you.


JOAN MARCUS:  Chairman Bohlke, Senators, my name is Joan Marcus and I am here today on behalf of the Planning Council on Developmental Disabilities to testify in opposition of LB 742, and I will try to be very brief.  This bill would limit the cost of special education to an amount appropriated by the Legislature unlike the current percentage that schools are reimbursed for their excess costs.  The Council recognizes that the costs of special education need to be studied and ways of being more effective and efficient need to be examined.  That is why we do support LB 623, which would extend the time of the Special Education Accountability Commission so that they can


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complete their study of costs and pilot various models..  This commission needs additional time to complete their work and make recommendations for the state.  Special education is an entitlement as all children in our country have a right to a free, appropriate education.  Limiting the state's share of costs does not change that entitlement.  The Council's concern is that families, especially those new to the system, will find it more difficult to access educational services, as they may be unaware of their rights, and school districts, already at their state limit, may be reluctant to add them into the system.  As we know, a school district cannot always anticipate the birth of a child with high needs and plan for it in their budget.  Certainly, such a state policy would not encourage school districts to actively find and enroll children who are in need of special education programs.  We believe that it is important to get young families into the system as soon as possible, not only for the child's benefit, but such supports are often an important aspect of keeping stressed families together.  Again, I would like to state that the Council opposes LB 742, but supports LB 623 as they feel that the commission should be given the time to complete the task the Legislature set before it.  Thank you.


SENATOR BOHLKE:  Questions.  I see none.  Thank you.  How many more people, those in support.  You are going as a .neutral.  You are then in support, I mean in opposition.  We are going to go ...  right.  Only...


ROGER BREED:  Okay,I support doing away with this bill.


SENATOR BOHLKE:  We are going to go about thirty seconds.


ROGER BREED:  Okay.  I am Roger Breed.  I am the Superintendent of the Schools in Elkhorn, Nebraska.  I would like to present testimony in opposition to LB 742, as now proposed, but I would also like to express sympathy of your concerns regarding the financing of special education.  The Elkhorn Public Schools is a growing suburban school district on the west edge of Omaha.  Like all school districts, we are being requested and are required by the parents, the ,courts, and the Nebraska Department of Education to educate students with disabilities to the maximum extent appropriate in neighborhood schools and in the general education classrooms with in-school, in-class support.  The dilemma we face, and what motivates us to oppose LB 742 is that the expense of providing services to students with disabilities and the expense of complying with multiple levels of special ,education rules is to a large extent beyond the control of


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the local school board and school administrators and teachers.  I cite the following examples just from this past year:  Since August of 1994, five students with severe and profound needs have located in Elkhorn.  The costs associated with the education of these students increased the district's special education budget over ten percent, over $120,000.  Second, our special education transportation budget increased by 33 percent because of our need to contract with a common carrier to transport an additional four students in wheelchairs.  This was a cost of $27,5OO.


SENATOR BOHLKE:  Excuse me, but not all four of those sheets are you going to go over, are you?


ROGER BREED:  Yeah, but they are short.


SENATOR BOHLKE:  We really, okay.


ROGER BREED:  I will summarize.


SENATOR BOHLKE:  We really need to summarize.


ROGER BREED:  I will do that.  Yes, Senator.  Third, over the summer, a secondary age student with severe disabilities moved into the district from out of state.  Because of his medically fragile condition, the student requires extensive health related services, including the services of a full-time nurse.  The nurse accompanies the student to and from school on a specially equipped bus.  The nurse monitors .the student's breathing and provides deep suctioning of a tracheostomy, again at the school's expense.  Fourth, we increased our vision services by over 66 percent due to the needs of an elementary student with visual impairment.  And these are but a few clear examples of costs associated with students coming into our district that are beyond our control.  They are students with low incidence disabilities but very high costs to provide services.  I think what we are suggesting is that there needs to be a new direction in terms of special education funding in the State of Nebraska.  As a matter of record, we do not support the funding limitation, that 742 suggests, without greater local decisionmaking changes, changes in special education laws, and reductions of Rule 51 procedures.  We would like to work together with you, as you consider a balanced solution to assure that decisions are made based on the needs of the students affected and their families.  In closing, there are no ideal policies or decisions that can be made to escape the basic economics of our current special' education program.  The kids are there and the kids require services. 


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Until federal and state governments fully fund special education mandate or change the mandate, local school districts will continue to face many conflicting challenges associated with educating students with disabilities in the least restrictive environment.  I urge you to oppose 742 as written, and I thank you for your consideration of my comments.  (Exhibit 0)


SENATOR BOHLKE:  Thank you.  Questions.  Senator Wickersham.


SENATOR WICKERSHAM:  I will try to be brief.  You indicated you had a number of special ed students move into your district, is that an average number for you or is there some reason?


ROGER BREED:  We are growing at 4 to 5 percent in total enrollment and so that was kind of a typical summer.


SENATOR WICKERSHAM:  So it is in line with your enrollment.  it isn't because you offer special programs ...


ROGER BREED:  I think it is a combination of the two.  We try to offer a comprehensive and complete and quality special education program.  As parents shop the metropolitan area, they look for school districts that have programs for their special needs students.  So it is kind of a, you know, double pronged attack, if you will, that we not only have the enrollment growth but we have the special needs population seeking programs, as they should, as good parents, for their kids and we are trying to meet those needs.




.SENATOR BOHLKE:  Are there questions?  Senator Bernard-Stevens.


SENATOR BERNARD-STEVENS:  Just one.  If this bill were to pass and become law, obviously, you would not be affected the first two years, but the outlying years you would be.  What do you think those that are in the trenches would do in the scramble of the budgetary crisis, what reforms, what changes do you think you'd have to be forced to do?


ROGER BREED:  I think what we would push for is the opportunity to provide services in the absence of procedural rules to the extent that we are now required to have procedural rules and monitor those rules.  You know, the example 'that is the easiest to understand is that Chapter I


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students cannot...  or people that receive Chapter I money and are paid for by that can't serve special students and vice versa.  Now it would seem to me that the money ought to go to students who have needs and not be playing the category game and tracing money and being held accountable to trace every dollar and dime that you have to spend to serve student needs, but we spend a lot of money, a lot of time following those rules, monitoring those rules, rather than perhaps the requirement that says we ought to be concentrating on student achievement and let the districts kind their own way to do that.




SENATOR BOHLKE:  Other questions?  Thank you, that was helpful.  Next.  Anyone wishing to testify in the neutral capacity.  Ten seconds.


SUE FULLETON:  Right, get your watches out and see if I can do this.  I am going to summarize this in about two sentences.  I am Sue Fulleton and I am testifying in the neutral position on LB 742 on behalf of the Nebraska State Education Association.  We do support the idea of efficiency that this bill would like to achieve, but in concept only.  From our meetings that we held across the state on the issue of taxes, the people spoke and said that they want special education funds to be shifted from the local level to the state level, so we would be in support of what that data shows us.  I have...  I am not sure, we weren't sure if you had this, but if you look ...  you all have this already from us, the report from those meetings.  Well, if you look through there you will see in several places that the people that attended these meetings were in favor of the shift to the state, so that property tax would not be the burden that it is and special education funds were one of the categories they talked about.


SENATOR BOHLKE:  What did you...


SUE FULLETON:  Did anybody time me?


SENATOR BOHLKE:  No, but that...  you came...


SUE FULLETON:  Thirty seconds.


SENATOR BOHLKE:  ...  you came closer than anyone else.  Questions from the committee.  I see none.  Thank you.  Senator McKenzie to close. 


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SENATOR McKENZIE:  Thank you, Senator Bohlke.  I, too, will try to be brief.  Senator Stuhr, in response to your question.  The one example I can find to cite to you comes from Vermont's attempt to change toward a more inclusionary program with support in additional services for teachers in delivering services for mildly disabled children in the classroom, since 1989, their education, special education child count has decreased by 12.8 percent.  The other states who have initiated reform have not been in place long enough for us...  for them to share any kind of significant numbers, but this is probably one of the first and one that can be cited in terms of decreases.  I guess I want to make just a couple of points in terms of LB 742 and what the committee should think about as we deliberate amendments to the bill or whether or not we want to advance this.  The first testifier in opposition said it was callous and irresponsible to introduce legislation such as this.  However, I would also argue from our role as legislators it would be callous and irresponsible not to see what is happening with a program that is doubling every five years.  And while the difficulties remain as to how we address that problem, I would argue that it is a little like driving a 1973 car and liking the way it feels and knowing that it still works, but also knowing that since 1973, there have been new models developed that can be more efficient, can certainly deliver services or for us, as a driver, do things in a little different way that is certainly more fuel efficient.  From my perspective, that is entirely what 742 is all about.  I too Agree that we need to do things based on the needs of the students, and I would argue that that is what we should be looking for, a program and a system of "imbursement" or reimbursement that is based on the needs of those special education students not based on the needs of a highly bureaucratic process, one that is paper intensive, one that gives little control to the local level for them to make decisions about how best to deliver those services, one that is heavy in terms of qualification, criteria, and one that is heavy in terms of time committed by superintendents and personnel in the system.  I guess the challenge is to us as to how we proceed after the hearing today, but I would reiterate also that I am very uncomfortable in light of Lieutenant Governor Robak'B comment of the introducer, I am personally uncomfortable in passing LB 742 to the floor with intention of passage unless we have companion legislation that proposes some of the changes that we've heard suggested here today.  And if 742 was helpful in one way, and one way only, it was to bring some of those suggestions to the table for our consideration.  But I do believe that it is important that we look at some other approaches and I think


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that 742 has certainly brought a lot of creative and innovative ideas to the table for us to think about.  With that, I would answer any other questions you might have.


SENATOR BOHLKE:  Any final questions?  I see none.




SENATOR BOHLKE:  That closes the hearing on LB 742.  Senator McKenzie, if you will take over.