Transcript prepared-by the Clerk of the Legislature,

Transcriber's Office

Committee on Education

February 25, 1997


Page 64


LB 865


SENATOR McKENZIE:  Senator Bohlke, members of the Education Committee, for the record my name is Jan McKenzie, M-c-K-e-n-z-i-e, introducing LB 865 to you this afternoon.  to the last bill introduction.  After passage of LB 742 in 1995, the funding system and the intent of any legislation was the current ...  that the current reimbursement system would sunset in 1998-1999 and that the Special Education Accountability Commission would recommend to us, which they did, a new


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funding proposal.  Probably foremost in their recommendation was concern over passage of legislation last session, LB 1114 in particular, with levy lids.  You will recall that LB 742 was passed before 1050 and 299 and the other property tax package.  The Special Ed Accountability Commission's recommendation foremost was, postponement of a significant change in the reimbursement system until we were dealing ...  or had, in some way, dealt with the funding of education in general.  That was also the general concurrence of the interim study committee, LR 411.  It was originally, I believe, a thirteen-member committee, members of Education Committee, along with the other Senators that you will see listed on the front of the legislation.  It was concurrence of that committee that, in fact, LB 865 be introduced to extend the current system excess cost reimbursement, under an appropriated ...  a set appropriated amount, allowing three percent growth, one more year past that 1998-1999 sunset.  It was also the concern of the Select Committee that we continue though to look at the recommendations of the Department of Education, the Special Ed Accountability Commission and other groups who had presented to us last year recommendations about cost and numerous recommendations about funding, accountability, and delivery of services.  The select committee, as good committees do, established a subcommittee who worked through the various proposals from, and some of you will remember, the rules, regulations, and statutes recommendations from the State Department of Education, the NASES recommendations, Nebraska Association for Special Educators, supervisors, special education supervisors, and the final report of the Special Education Accountability Commission that had been presented to us.  So what you will see in LB 865 are a number of other provisions that the Select Committee, and in concurrence with the subcommittee, felt were important issues to be discussed and I will very briefly run through those and answer any questions you might have, LB 865 includes eligibility for innovative support services for special education programs as another one of the many categories that could be eligible under the Education Innovation Funds.  It does not put them in any priority situation, it merely includes them as an area that could be awarded a grant.  Another section, and maybe the most controversial, is funding of state wards.  That was a Special Education Accountability Commission recommendation and the proposal says that if the costs associated with the student's education are paid by the


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state, the resident district will reimburse the state for fifty percent of the cost paid by the state, excluding special education, and this has been an issue the Education Committee has dealt with before.  A third area is a registry for assistive technology devices.  That was also a recommendation from the Special Education Accountability Commission.  Both the select committee last summer and the select committee the year before, LR 230 Select Committee, struggled with the difference between an educational benefit and as related to medical cost.  So, one of the inclusions this year in LB 865, for discussion purposes, is a requirement for the Department of Education to adopt rules and regulations defining educational benefit in order to more clearly those costs that are medical in nature and related to the educational benefits and those that may not be.  A very difficult task and one that the subcommittee felt might be best addressed by the Legislature's definition rather than the Department of Education's and so I will bring that to your attention.  There are some changes related to transportation, that there will be transportation for all resident students.  That section is changed.  This proposal removes transportation from those requirements and it also does for reimbursement.  Related services are added, as programs that need the Department of Education to establish criteria for assessment identification and verification.  This is a significant change.  That has not been included in the past.  And the rules and regulations would address both handicapping conditions and the need for related services.  Members of the Select Committee will recall that the Department of Education's recommendation was .to take the requirement for the verification standards out of state statutes and to create a best practices manual.  The Select Committee chose to leave that in statute but included some language that asks for the criteria to be designed to minimize the burden created for school districts.  A transition commission is the last significant portion of the legislation.  This goes directly to that concern for children, over the age of fourteen through the twenty-one year age requirement that the state has constitutionally for education.  A commission who would begin to look at what should be an appropriate education, we called it a seamless, this is the word of vogue, seamless .delivery system for more appropriate kinds of education and services for students from fourteen to twenty-one.  So it creates a commission that would begin to develop a service


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model for transition services and vocational services for special education students from fourteen to twenty-one.  With that, I will answer any questions you might have.


SENATOR BOHLKE:  Questions from the committee?  Senator McKenzie, I have couple.  Back to section 1, when you're talking about the lottery money and we've had some, you know, other proposals that look at doing things differently with the lottery money.  As I understand this, this says, just provide the innovative programs for students with disabilities.  That's pretty wide open.  Would we then, if we do that, do we open the gates as far as innovation programs for gifted, innovation programs for ESL, I mean, how do we ...  how do we, or...


SENATOR McKENZIE:  Actually, I think we already have programs for gifted in there.


SENATOR BOHLKE:  From the lottery funds?


SENATOR McKENZIE:  Yes.  They are also in the pool of, I believe that's what's listed under (p), approved programs or services under sections 79-1106 to 79-1109.  1 believe those are the high ability learners' statutes.  So that's already in there.


SENATOR BOHLKE:  And that's on what?


SENATOR McKENZIE:  On page 6, line (p).


SENATOR BOHLKE:  And I guess the reason I asked that, that ...  I mean, I'm sure we would have this discussion in the ...  especially when we have 1114 and you've heard the discussion coming into place and targeting the money for advances in technology.  This does not ...  does this not say it has to be anything in the area of technology for special education students?


SENATOR McKENZIE:  It does not.  It would be just another category that would have to go through the competitive process.


SENATOR BOHLKE:  So, would you ...  was there any discussion of making this also keeping it in the area of technology?


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SENATOR McKENZIE:  No, this was really more in response ...  my understanding...  if you recall, we had pilot projects that were established at Westside Community Schools and in Grand Island?  Those pilot projects, we were ...  we heard a report from the Westside Schools on the success Of their program.  This would allow that kind of district to apply for continuation through at least to begin it maybe in another school within their district for that same 'kind of innovative program.  It does not necessary connect it to technology or connect it to anything else.


SENATOR BOHLKE:  Okay.  Any other questions from the?  Senator Wickersham.


SENATOR WICKERSHAM:  Senator, this is a ...  I don't know if this section is specifically related to special education except tangentially and it's the provision that deals with wards of the court.  And, I believe what it says, is that the cost of the education although there isn't any mechanism for determining that other than rules and regulations, I take it.  (changed tape) And the Department of Health would be paid by the state and then the district of origin would pay fifty percent, except for special education costs.  Is that what it's doing?  And why?  This is in section 2, on page 9.


SENATOR McKENZIE:  Right.  I have it in front of me, Senator.  The concern was ...  Attempting to be addressed in this section, were those communities in the state who tend to have group homes for foster care ...




SENATOR McKENZIE:  Now I understand, from conversations with a number of other individuals this morning, an area I had forgotten, the issue of Boys Town.  And that kind of placement which really, this was not intended to get into that issue, but it does.  This was about communities where, not only do they end up with a number of foster children, foster care children in group homes.  The local district bears the cost of that and so this was reimbursement of fifty percent of the education cost, as I read the language.  Special education was, Tammy is shaking her head, I may have that incorrect.  Special education costs are reimbursed through the excess cost system, currently.  Tammy, am I


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TAMMY BARRY:  Actually, we reimburse ...  or the state pays, right now, for the group homes and not for the individual homes and this brings in the individual homes.


SENATOR McKENZIE:  This brings in the individual homes.


SENATOR BOHLKE:  Senator Beutler.


SENATOR BEUTLER:  Jan, I thought I just might ask you about something that has bothered me for some time and this kind of brings it up again.  But back in the language that describes what the Education Innovation Fund is for, beyond the inclusion of the word, innovation, and the name of the fund itself, it says, to encourage schools to establish innovations and programs or practices that result in restructuring of school management, instructional programs which bring about improvement in the quality of education.  And then, later on, it goes through this list of things, (a) through, now (q), with the addition of this last element.  Do you see that initial language as being a qualification on all of these (a) through (q) categories?  If they...  if they are all subjected to being innovative programs, and in accordance with that early descriptive material on the statute, then, in the new language, for example that we're adding, putting the word, innovative, seems almost redundant and unnecessary.  But is that the way this has been working intact and should work?  That the language on...I'm talking about the language on page 3, lines 20 through 22, which is the general description of the Education Innovation Fund.  I mean, one of the categories here, for example, subcategory(e), alternative programs for students, including underrepresented groups, at-risk students, and dropouts.  Now, it just says alternative programs.  I assume money in this fund would not go for just somebody wanting to establish an alternative program that's just the same as every one we've ever seen before.  Right?


SENATOR McKENZIE:  Right.  So, if you're asking me the question, if the word, innovative redundant in line (q), I would say, yes.


SENATOR BEUTLER:  Well, and second...


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SENATOR McKENZIE:  The assumption is that ...


SENATOR BEUTLER:  ...  and secondly, your reaffirming that the language on page 3 qualifies everything on...




SENATOR BEUTLER:  ...listed (a) through (q)?




SENATOR BEUTLER:  Okay.  Thank you.


SENATOR McKENZIE:  And I would draw your attention, just briefly, to lines 15 and 16 in that section on page 6.  The program has to demonstrate improved outcomes for students through emphasis on prevention and collaborative planning.


SENATOR BEUTLER:  I'm sorry.  Where are you reading?


SENATOR McKENZIE:  On page 6, under that, the new addition to the laundry list, as you called it.  It requires that those programs that might be approved as a grant...  through the grant process, would have to demonstrate improved outcomes for students through emphasis on prevention and collaborative planning.  So I said, I ...


SENATOR BEUTLER:  Is there any point to this laundry list?  I mean, why can't we just use the language on page 3 to establish innovations and programs or practices?


SENATOR McKENZIE:  I think it's a good example of what happens once you start to list.


SENATOR BEUTLER:  Well, I know...  it...  it seems either, one, unnecessary, or two, meant to exclude innovations in other areas.  And let me ask you that.  If the innovation is not in one of these areas, is it excluded?


SENATOR McKENZIE:  My sense would be, no.  If the Excellence in Education, I believe that's the correct term for the group who makes the decision on the grant awards, feels a program or a proposal is very innovative...




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SENATOR McKENZIE:  ...  and it meets one of the earlier criteria, they would award the grant.


SENATOR BEUTLER:  Okay, thank you.


SENATOR BOHLKE:  Other questions from the committee?  I see none.




SENATOR BOHLKE:  Thank you.  Those wishing to testify in support?  First person?  Anyone wishing to testify in opposition?


NANCY MEYER:  For the record, Nancy Meyer, Geneva Support Services Cooperative and NCSA.  I am here to support LB 865.  We support the following provisions from it.  The innovative program.  We didn't get so hung up on the term, innovative, because we were concentrating more on the prevention and collaborative planning aspect of that because we see the power of that in our local schools.  We also support the rules and regs to define educational benefit and to give distinction between health, and medical services.  That particularly means PT and OT services which have long been a concern of local districts, particularly those of us in the rural areas.  We're finding those kinds of services is very difficult.  We support the section that says rules and regs for related services and the establishment of the transition commission.  The second of LB 865 that we do have some concerns about is the one that deals with wards of the state, where it says that the local school district ...  the resident school district, when that child was made a ward of the state, would continue to be held financially responsible for that district, for that student's education.  The concern we have with that is the frequent moves that foster children often have and we see it as kind of a logistical nightmare in terms of, first of all, keeping track of the whereabouts of those students; and second of all, the fact that it would create another layer of bureaucracy to apply for those funds after you found out, where in fact, that they were.  And so, in summary, we would support LB 865 almost all of it, with the exception of the wards of the state provisions.


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SENATOR BOHLKE:  Questions from the committee?  Senator Bromm.


SENATOR BROMM:  I'm sorry I have to...I should probably know this but I guess my impression was, that without this bill, individual students placed in foster homes, the cost is paid by the district that's educating that child, where that child happens to wind up.


NANCY MEYER:  That's exactly right.  And if that child is in special education...




NANCY MEYER:  ...  then the fund...


SENATOR BROMM:  Sure.  Well, let's say they aren't in special education.  So what this bill does, is take some of the burden off of the district that happens to wind up with these individual students...


NANCY MEYER:  Mmm-hmm.


SENATOR BROMM:  ...  and provided that the state will pay for the cost of that individual student...




SENATOR BROMM:  ...  which is ...  which is...could be a great improvement for small districts, over the present situation?  But what it says and then it goes one step farther and says, that the resident, the original resident district will reimburse the state for fifty percent of the cost.


NANCY MEYER:  Mmm-hmm.


SENATOR BROMM:  So, I guess the way I look at it, this is helpful to the small district, particularly, over the present situation, because, right now, if they have five of these individual students wind up in their district, they just educate them.


NANCY MEYER:  Mmm-hmm.


SENATOR BROMM:  At their cost.  The state doesn't pay any of


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it, other than just what you get through...


NANCY MEYER:  Wards of the state pay that.  .  .


SENATOR BROMM:  ...  equalization or whatever.  Okay, so I'm trying to understand where you're coming from on that.


NANCY MEYER:  Speaking from personal experience, we've had a number of kids who are in foster homes and they land in one of my seven districts and they've been in a number of districts before that and we see that it would be difficult to track these kids and we see it as another layer of bureaucracy, another layer that would take funds away from direct services to kids.  The concept is good in terms of providing :;tate funding for kids in foster care.  I was not happy when the original bill passed that only funded for group homes and took funding away from individual students.  See, I could see this whole thing being resolved if we went back to the system that we had before and wherever those kids happened to land, then that district would get fifty percent.  We'd be talking the same amount of dollars but we just wouldn't have that layer of bureaucracy in the middle of sending the money back to the local district ...  or the resident district.  Does that make sense?


SENATOR BROMM:  It seems to me that if the district where the student winds up being located is responsible for fifty percent, you're still going to have a certain amount of paperwork in identifying and reporting that and establishing that.


NANCY MEYER:  It's really pretty minimal.


SENATOR BROMM:  Yeah.  Whereas the resident district of that student, seems to me it would be appropriate for them to bear that cost; but I ...  that's was worth discussing.


NANCY MEYER:  It's a matter of opinion.  That's all right.


SENATOR BROMM:  Yeah.  Thank you.


SENATOR BOHLKE:  And my position has always been, it would seem to me, although that the resident district should just pay the receiving district a hundred percent but...


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NANCY MEYER:  No comment.


SENATOR BOHLKE:  Any other questions?  Thank you.


NANCY MEYER:  Thank you.


SENATOR BOHLKE:  Any one wishing to testify in opposition?  or are we offered in support before, was there someone else who wanted to be in support now?  In opposition?


DEBRA STORZ:  My name is Debra Storz.  I'm the President of Nebraska Speech and Hearing Association and also represent approximately twelve thousand students.  At this point we feel we want to commend you.  We understand the attempts to hold costs down and recognize the difficulties that this entails.  However, parts of this bill are very questioning or brings us a lot of concern.  Section 8 on page 19 states where they would make a distinction between health or medical services which are not the responsibility of the school system and educational services which are the responsibility of the school system.  This, without a doubt, sounds good on the surface, but I have some concerns with, where do you draw the line?  I had talked to some people who, at the Department of Ed, and they felt that it would be probably people ...  children who are in automobile accidents who needed various services and they did not feel like it would really affect speech, language, and hearing.  But my question was, okay, you have a patient or a person, a student that was in an automobile accident that had a traumatic brain injury.  They went through the medical aspects of ...  the went through rehabilitation.  But, yet when they go back to school, it was a medical reason that they have the traumatic brain injury but they still need the services and I'm worried that there will be children who will fall through the cracks.  Also, what happens to the children that fall through the cracks?  The children who need the services, that are not recipients of Medicaid.  Their parents do not have medical insurance or their insurance does not cover this service.  Most insurance companies do not cover these very services and we will end up paying, in the long run, for the little children who have contractures, who are not getting services.  They will not be as productive as they could be with getting these services now.  And I'm really concerned and worried about these poor little folks that would not be able to get the


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help.  One alternative that I thought of, was possibly change the wording and identify funding to ensure education and life long opportunities for all children.  This would encompass ways to limit the property tax which we all know is the reason why we're here today, and possibly make it a more broad spread type of funding system.  The other alternative that I thought of.  Senator Beutler, I believe this is your bill, kid's first health care act.  I thought that that was a wonderful bill but it does not incorporate these very services that we need to get the children that fall through the cracks.  And if we could make an amendment or something that would guarantee that these children can have these services under your very bill and, you know, have that bill passed.  Then I would feel much more comfortable with this and I wouldn't be so hesitant.  Section 10, line 21, it's just very much a technicality or wording that I have problems with because it says# handicapped...  identification of and the provision of services to such handicapped children if designed to minimize the burden created for school districts.  This bill is silent regarding what will happen to the children that will not have access to care?  And I'm concerned because we should not see children as a burden.  They are human beings, some with more needs than others and we cannot discard them just because they happen to cost too much.  I'm also afraid that this bill is discriminating against the very children that have special needs.  I'm afraid that it will bring scorn to the most helpless and frequently, the voiceless population.  Also, under federal guidelines though ideas, the special education children are guaranteed rights to appropriate education no matter what the Cost is.  I think there's a lot of good points in the bill.  I support the assistive technology definition.  I am appreciative of different ways to find funding.  But these are the ...  what I felt were very big problems with the bill that keeps us from supporting the bill.


SENATOR BOHLKE:  Thank you, Debra.  Questions from the committee?  I see none.  Thank you.


DEBRA STORZ:  May I leave this for the record?  (Exhibit J)


SENATOR BOHLKE:  Yes, uh-huh.


DEBORAH WESTON HAHN:  Good afternoon.  I am still Deborah


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Weston Hahn from Lincoln, Nebraska, representing the ARC of Nebraska Education Committee and the Autism Society of Nebraska.  We both cannot support the bill as written, although there are some very nice components to the bill, the innovative programs, the assistive technology definition and registry.  The transition commission is a very nice provision, good composition of the commission, that notion of creating that seamless system that we all look to, coordination with all agencies that we must often work with.  And it really impels for the development and helps us retain that momentum that we've built.  My son is fifteen and we're in that process of transition.  But we do have some major concerns.  On page 19, transportation is deleted and that is a concern.  Now when we did the parent forums last year.  Parents ...  most of us have other children, are taxpayers, and looking at overall school services and this was one area where parents said, yes, we can make some savings.  Let's look at, as kids attend more of their home schools in home districts.  My son rode the regular education bus although he was entitled to special ed transportation.  We feel this is an area for some real dialogue about how we can, together, promote some cost savings.  Perhaps one of the most troublesome parts of the bill to me was the language clause that was inserted this clause says, in regards to several provisions, if designed to minimize the burden created for school districts and that is inserted on page 19 for the process of assessment and verification, page 20, the rules that will be developed for criteria and page 20, the criteria for related services.  Well, you can imagine reading that, as a parent, and I have to agree with Debra that I do not see my child or our children as burdens.  Some of these services can be ...  have considerable cost but my son is a very good example of when we use those early intervention techniques and appropriate strategies that we will have children who can actually begin that transition process and go out and have a good outcome.  I just think we really want to balance the cost of the system which we all must be cognizant of as well as the needs of the children, and I mean all the children of our state.  As ...  pertaining to related services, I think it's real important to note that the Department of Education has produced two technical assistance documents.  One on OT-PT in the education setting and one on school health services and special ed related services.  And both of those are really very helpful and begin to outline that.  But we have to remember that these


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are really very individualized.  It's hard to make really objective criteria when disabilities impact individuals so specifically.  Also, that's the area where the team really works and that process of identifying the highest needs and those people that best know that child and have those skills that are honed to intervene, work together and really make that program work.  And I know, especially for my family, my insurance does not pick up these costs.  My son receives OT and PT but it's always in order for him to benefit from his education.  He's very skilled.  As I said, he's a very adept at German and science but sometimes cannot write with a pencil because of his disorder.  And the OT arranges for alternative forms of communication and that was essential for him to progress along.  And that had to be an individual decision, based on his needs.  Also, on page 20, there is language that is redlined or struck out for participation for the regular education role and, as I said earlier, we need more cooperation and more collaboration between regular and special education so we can work together.  Rather than deleting any provisions that lead us on into that continuation of the parallel system.  As I said, the transition commission is wonderful.  They're many, many benefits.  I have some concerns with the lines on page 25 that say, allow most to graduate prior to age twenty-one, and by eighteen, if possible.  Now that is all our dream.  Most of us, as parents, say we want our kids to graduate with their peers and go on and to have that life.  Sometimes it takes a little bit longer so I don't want to emphasize or increase ...  create an incentive to graduate these kids out early before we've really prepared them for transition.  Also, my understanding is, that what...  I guess what I knew as DPI and now it's something a little bit different, doesn't pick up kids until they're twenty-one.  So if they're graduating at eighteen and we're transitioning them through, what happens between eighteen and twenty-one?  Are we then going to have a gap and a lack of momentum, a loss of that movement toward adult services and I would really hate to disrupt that transition flow that we all work so hard and that, I think, is one of the better programs that we have going right now.  The creation of these multidisciplinary groups to more our kids into jobs and community living.  So I thank you very much for your time and if you have any questions?


SENATOR BOHLKE:  Questions from the committee?  Deborah,


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instead of a burden, would the term, fiscal and administrative impact, something along that line work?


DEBORAH WESTON HAHN:  I think, be considerate on...I guess it would...  I would like to see the balancing, because we have to go back to that federal language because EHA and IDEA came about because our kids were not allowed in schools and the language of IDEA says that our kids are entitled to a free appropriate public education.  And the legal standard for that, I understand, is that they will benefit from education.  We're not really talking about Cadillac programs and Cadillac OT programs and cost has always been a factor.  And parents, I think, are really very willing to have that be a part of the discussion but I don't want that emphasized, just like we don't with most of our kids.  And I said, we're taxpayers.  I have three kids and worry about all of their educational services but I would like to see that balancing between the interest of educating all our Nebraskan children and those costs and that be equitable throughout education, whether general or regular.


SENATOR BOHLKE:  Thank you.  Other questions from the committee?  I see none.  Next person to testify in opposition?


COLLEEN PETERSON:  My name is Colleen Peterson and I'm here to testify in opposition against Legislative Bill 865.  1 have four children in the public school system.  My oldest son, Jamie, is fifteen and at North and is blind.  I have a daughter in the gifted program in eighth grade, a daughter in a resource room for learning disabilities in the seventh grade, and a son in the gifted program for sixth grade so I have I wide array of services available to me for my children.  My folks live in Chadron.  I've traveled the state and done parent training on the topics of special education for a number of years.  I sit on a lot of different committees and I knew that the dollars thing was going to come down this year and that, at some point, we were all going to have to give our opinions on how it's going to come down.  And I guess what I want to say upfront is that I know that this has to be dealt with.  I know that there are no more dollars to be spread around loosely and that the state needs to do something, but we need to be careful about what we do.  Much the same as Ms.  Hahn, I am in support of assistive technology piece of this bill.  The


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Education Innovation Fund, once again we didn't look at that list very much, we were looking at the collaborative efforts of people working together which is what we need, and the transition commission which are all needed things.  I'm going to say this as far as the transition commission goes.  Every student that graduates from school in the state of Nebraska should receive a diploma and that's an issue; and it's an issue that never addressed until some school district somewhere says, no, that student can't walk across the stage because they haven't made the accreditation for getting that diploma.  It's a problem of redefining what a student has done in order to meet those credits.  Not changing the accreditation system, but did this student do what they could do to meet those needs?  So that's an issue that doesn't come up very often to you that I think should be looked at.  In opposition, blending the funds without accountability for SPED or regular ed dollars is going to be a problem with a lot of parents and educators in the state just because of the way the bureaucratic system works.  Funneling those dollars all through one place is dangerous.  Transportation, once again, I want to agree with the collaboration of the other community organizations that testified.  I'm one.  We've used transportation for my son for years and when the time came for him to come back to his home school, I was transporting my regular kids, Jamie rides with us.  I would not have ever asked anyone to pay for that transportation did we not have the need to send him to a school across town or somewhere else and many of the parents that I have talked to feel eel the same way.  I think the transportation becomes even a larger issue in western Nebraska when the miles are farther.  Going back to a strict federal formula which I guess I feel like is alluded to in this lessening of the burden on local school districts.  Nebraska's been innovative since it started special education.  They were the first ones to serve the babies, the first ones to serve to twenty-one, and now, to totally flatten that I think is wrong.  It doesn't mean that we don't look at are we providing more than we should be or able to handle financially.  But, to just say, dump it all and go back to federal regulations is going to really stir up some problems for a lot of students and teachers.  The related services section.  I have a letter that I'd like to read, a very good friend of mine and someone whose daughter grew up with my son.  (Exhibit K) I'm writing with regard to the issue of related services in the schools.  As the


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mother of a fifteen-year-old with cerebral palsy, this is an issue of tremendous concern to me.  I will make this short and sweet.  The amount of physical and occupational therapy my daughter gets through Omaha Public Schools is very much appreciated but it's hardly a fraction of what she needs to make her functional level what it needs or for her to be productive.  Please consider these points.  Although my daughter is one of the highest needs children in the district, the level of PT and OT that she gets is sixteen to twenty four hours per year.  This for consultation on her equipment and every aspect of her program, training of teachers and aides, meetings, report writing, and a tiny amount of direct therapy.  There is an assumption by some that there needs to be tighter controls on the assignment of hours for these services.  If the MDT and IEP system is not working, fix it.  Do not set up another layer of hoops for us to jump through.  If you only knew how many people we have to see for the needs of our children, in my case, seven doctors and a private physical therapist in addition to the educational team.  We need to streamline things, rather than add more people and processes.  If these children are to attain any level of physical functioning, their families need to be constant physical therapists.  We carry out a therapy program on a daily basis and need consultation as our children grow to make sure that we are doing the right thing in keeping up with their needs.  As our children grow, their needs must be monitored by a trained eye.  Muscles don't grow the same as bones and distortions lead to expensive, and often, unnecessary surgery.  If there is a rehabilitation aspect of a child's care such as after a surgery, insurance will sometimes pay for some private medically related therapy.  Insurance companies refuse to to understand habilitation and the consultation that is needed to keep these children functioning and in their daily lives.  Even in this case, the school therapist is so vital to help the child return to the school setting.  If school related therapy is cut back, eliminated, or made more difficult to get, this will put the burden on teachers and paraprofessionals who have no real training in the areas of therapy and justice will not be there for anyone.  In most cases, independence is advanced by the involvement of the therapist.  If our daughter was not able to use the rest room by herself, or walk through the lunch line, that would mean time out of someone else's day to attend to her.  Greater independence means more self worth for the child and


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cost savings to the school.  I would be happy to be contacted in case you have further questions on this matter.  I am well aware that if my daughter gets a Cadillac, other children may not even get a bus ticket.  But right now, I think that the related services in Nebraska are the reliable Chevy level and need to stay there to do justice for children.  It's from Melanie's Mom and I'm sure you've heard from her before.  It's Judy Quest.  And I would reiterate that, as a parent of a blind student, Jamie if he was verified blind and sent to school, it would do him no good because under his related services package, he receives a lap top computer, voice modulated calculator, those things that make it able for him to provide and produce the educational materials that are requested of him at the high school level.  If he was just verified blind, he would get a teacher.  That's it.  I'd be glad to answer any questions you might have.


SENATOR BOHLKE:  Questions from the committee?  I see none.  Thank you.  Anyone else wishing to testify in opposition?  Anyone wishing?  Opposition?  Neutral testimony?


JOHN HEIL:  Thank you, Senator Bohlke, my name is John Heil.  I'm an attorney representing Omaha Public Schools.  I'll be very brief today.  We have a couple of concerns or questions about LB 865.  The first one relates to the repealer here.  It repeals 79, 1129, and just wipes it off the books.  This is the section, that if I recall right, dates back to 1973, LB 403, when, you know, the first special education legislation was adopted in the state.  And it spells out the rules of who and when children are eligible for special education transportation or for reimbursement for that transportation.  It may be in a situation where the child is unable ...  they have a wheelchair needs or unable to get to school themselves or may relate to a situation where they have to attend a school other than their normal school of attendance and there's no indication in the bill that new rules are being adopted or whatever.  I mean, it looks to me like that just goes off the books with the bill and no replacement.  And again, the other background issue is, eligibility for reimbursement.  Now, it does make a provision for the reimbursements for 197-98 to be determined as if assuming 1129 was still on the books, but after that point it is gone in terms of reimbursement.  The second question we have simply relates to the provisions dealing


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with wards of the court.  The bill has a provision that indicates that the school district in which the student resided when they became a ward of the court shall reimburse the state for fifty percent of the regular education costs if that student leaves their district.  And then it comes back and give half of the student for or each one of those under the general aid formula.  This is going to incur, from our perspective, a lot of paperwork, a lot of tracking, for relatively small amount of money here.  Just to give you an example.  We don't know how many OPS students that are wards of the court are being educated in other districts, but we do know that we have thirty-seven students as of the end of first semester in the Omaha Public Schools out of our forty thousand plus student body that came from other districts.  This seems to create an enormous amount of paperwork to move a very small amount of money from one column to another.  Those are my comments.  I appreciate the committee's patience.


SENATOR BOHLKE:  Questions from the committee?  Legal counsel has indicated to me that transportation is a related service by state statute so.


JOHN HEIL:  I understand that it is defined as a related service.  The question is, what are the rules for when children are eligible to receive those and what are the legislative guidelines or are there none?  And I appreciate that.


SENATOR BOHLKE:  Any other questions?  I see none.


JOHN HEIL:  Thank you very much.


SENATOR BOHLKE:  Anyone else wishing to provide neutral testimony?


MARY FRASER MEINTS:  I have copies.  (Exhibit L) Senator Bohlke, and members of the Education Committee, I am Mary Fraser Meints.  one of the programs I manage is the state ward education fund program for the Department of Health and Human Services.  I'm here to speak in a neutral capacity about the portion, section 2 which just relates to state ward education.  First, I think it would be important to talk about, under current statute, and there's been some testimony already.  I'm handing out my testimony and, on the


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back of that, is a chart with the current and proposed impacts of this bill.  Under the current statute, the State Ward Education Fund reimburses public schools for children who are wards residing in group homes who are placed out of their school district, at the time ...  where the child resided at the time of removal.  It also allows for payment for institutions which operate a residential and special education program which has an approved rate through the Department of Education to receive special education reimbursement for the children in that program.  Children in foster family care are not currently eligible through state ward education fund program.  There were eligible prior to 1992-93 school year.  In conversations with others, we are not clear who section 2 applies to.  In our interpretation of this bill, we believe there are two impacts of this bill on State Ward Education Fund.  First, children who are wards in foster family care, placed in a school district other than the school where they resided at the time they were placed in out of home care, the cost would not be covered through State Ward Education Fund.  The school district where the child is placed becomes the resident school district for that child when they move to a foster home.  And they become eligible for state ward education funds under this bill.  The school district may receive reimbursement through HHS for regular and special education and related transportation.  The second issue is the school district where the child resided at the time of placement outside of his or her home will reimburse the state for fifty percent of the cost of regular education and eligible transportation paid by the state to the receiving school district, this excludes special education.  The estimates in our fiscal note are based on the assumption that school districts reimburse HHS for the cost of children in foster family care outside of their school district before placement.  An alternative interpretation to LB 865 which has been suggested would apply to that reimbursement to kids in family foster care, group home care, and institutions.  We would like to this issue to be clarified in terms of legislative intent.  Another issue which is unclear is whether the school district is intended to reimburse HHS for costs for children placed out of state.  This doesn't happen very often but we've had some situations recently where states have asked us for reimbursement for kids who are placed in foster family care, maybe with a relative, in another state and they've wanted some money from us.  We


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would like clarification on that issue as well.  Other people have alluded to, the management of this program would be a challenge.  The population served in child welfare is mobile and there are some issues regarding the child moving and the parent of the child moving.  If a child lives with her parent in Omaha and has been placed in foster care in Papillion, HHS will receive a bill from the school district where the foster family is located.  We would then verify that information with the protective service worker and reimburse the school district.  This is how the process would be now.  This section creates an additional process.  HHS would then bill the initial school district after reimbursing the current school district.  Legislative Bill 865 is unclear who would reimburse Health and Human Services, if the parent moved from Omaha to, for example, Bellevue after the child is placed in foster care in Papillion.  There would be a significant tracking of the parent's residence and the responsible school district.  We don't believe school districts would support paying for the education costs of a child whose parents don't live in their school district.  We would appreciate clarification of this issue, also.  Children in foster care may move from one school to another.  Health and Human Services tries to avoid these placements but sometimes they are inevitable.  The work of an HHS staff who pays the bills and the work of the program specialist would increase due to more questions from school districts and staff and due to increased reimbursements and tracking.  On the chart, on the two columns in the middle and the right, kids in group homes or institutions.  In the regular print is how it is now and in the bold on the left side, wards and foster family care, would be the proposal under this bill.  And we, as I said earlier, used just kids in foster family care for the reimbursement.  If we did the other alternative representation of LB 865, fifty percent of the reimbursement from school districts would be included for group homes and institutional care so that's not reflected on this chart but we would have a similar box as in number one, wards in foster family care, for groups homes and wards and institutions.  This is a very confusing area and I have visited with the Department of Education and a school superintendent prior to this testimony.  I would be glad to answer any questions or provide any follow-up discussion with the committee, if you would wish.


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SENATOR BOHLKE:  Questions from the committee?  None today but we now know who to call, Mary.  Thank you.  Any other neutral testimony?


DON ANDERSON:  Senator Bohlke, members of the Education Committee, for the record, I'm Don Anderson, administrator in the State Department of Education, special populations office.  I'm testifying on behalf of the department.  At its February 20, 1997, meeting, the State Board voted in neutral position on LB 865 but would like to provide the following comments.  The State Board supports adding innovative programs for students with disabilities receiving special education as well as students needing special education assistance in order to benefit from the school district's general education curriculum as a funding priority for the Education Innovation Fund.  The State Board supports the funding of education costs for wards of the court ...  and wards of any court in a foster family home living outside of the resident district.  The board does not support the requirement that the resident district at the time the student became a ward of the state or of any court reimburse the state for fifty percent of the education costs by the state.  The State Board does not support legislation that requires the department to develop rules and regulations regarding the definition of educational benefit and assessment, identification, and verification of the need of related services.  The State Board encourages the Legislature to allow these issues to be deliberated by parents and educators through the processes available to the State Board.  The State Board does not support legislation that establishes the transition commission or an assistive technology registry.  These initiatives could be addressed without legislation.  And the State Board supports extending the current special education reimbursement system to 1998-1999 with a three percent increase.  If you have any questions, I'd be glad to try to answer those regarding the State Board's position or any questions that you might have generated from the previous testimony.  (Exhibit M)


SENATOR BOHLKE:  Any questions from the committee?  Did I understand, the State Board is opposed to writing rules and regulations?


DON ANDERSON:  They're Baying that if those rules and


regulations in these areas need to be developed, that should


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be deliberated before the State Board of Education and they would not need legislation to do that in these areas.  We currently have rules dealing with verification criteria and those areas could be extended to include definition of educational benefit as well as the areas associated with the related services and the eligibility for those services.


SENATOR BOHLKE:  Any other questions from the committee?  I see none.  Thank you.  Next testimony in the neutral capacity?  See none.  Senator McKenzie, to close.


SENATOR McKENZIE:  Just very briefly, Senator Bohlke.  Again, for the record, I'm Jan McKenzie.  A couple of responses that I wanted to make clear on the record.  The section that was referred to numerous times on page 19, language stating, if designed to minimize the burden created for school districts, is related to the process.  For example, the process outlined currently under Rule 51, not about the services or programs for children.  Minimizing the burden for the school district is about the procedures and the processes and the rules and the paperwork and the forms.  It's not meant to be looked at in regard to the IEP or the services or the programs but rather about the rules and regulations and definitions.  I'd also like to state that the better definition or, at least, requiring the board a definition to adopt and promulgate rules and regs related to related services is also not intended in any way to remove related services that have traditionally been a part of any child's IEP and most certainly not those children who have multiple handicaps and need a variety of related services.  There was some confusion, I think, between LB 86S and a bill coming up later.  Nothing in LB 865 removes the Early Intervention Program or funding for such.  There is no mingling of funds with other education funds.  This most importantly continues the current reimbursement of excess cost system for another year and that is the absolute minimum that we must advance that we must to General File this session to be dealt with.  The current system sunsets, as you heard earlier, in 1998 and there is nothing else on the record or in the statutes to provide for that system of reimbursement or funding for special education.  I would add, for the committee's information, that I have checked with the Governor's office regarding extension of that date as LB 742 was originally introduced on the Governor's behalf.  The Governor is supportive of extending the current


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system under the three percent lid for another year as we deal with the 1114 issues.  With that, I would answer any questions.


SENATOR BOHLKE:  Any questions from the committee?  I see none.




SENATOR BOHLKE:  Thank you.  That closes the hearing on LB 865 and moving right along to LB 652.  Senator Withem.