Wednesday, May 15, 2002

3 candidates say
governor must tackle
special education

Case, Anderson and Carroll have
all weighed in on the topic

By Crystal Kua

The next governor will need to tackle fixes to the state's special education system and funding of $400 million for the long haul, say three of the candidates running for the state's highest office.

"I think the next governor is going to have to see that process all the way through," said Democratic candidate Ed Case, now a state representative.

One of Case's likely opponents in the primary election will be businessman and former GOP chairman D.G. "Andy" Anderson, who released a 17-page position paper that he says outlines his proposals to revamp the special education system so that the child is the focus.

"We have put to paper we believe a program that makes more sense, one that we can afford, one that is more child-oriented than court-oriented," Anderson said. "The actual evaluation and/or the delivery of service to the child is something that we think is falling through the crack. We do not believe the existing status quo system will last."

The system is currently under federal oversight through the Felix consent decree.

The 1994 consent decree came about as a result of a lawsuit that accused the state of violating federal law by not adequately providing appropriate educational and mental health services to children with disabilities. The consent decree sets out the benchmarks the state needs to comply with to meet the federal mandate.

Anderson said that if the state is found in compliance, it will be artificial compliance.

"We think we can build a better mousetrap," Anderson said.

One of his proposals seeks to create a series of alternative special education public schools patterned after private schools -- such as Assets and Variety School -- that currently serve special-needs children with different disabilities. "Parents without question have the right to say, 'I want my child in this special education public school.' "

Students in the special schools would be serviced there until they are able to return to regular education schools. "It's for bringing them into a school, correct the disability, help the child to compete and learn and then put them back into the public schools."

Anderson said he doesn't know how much it would cost to build such schools because it would depend on the demographics in different areas.

His proposals also call for having the responsibility of oversight be transferred to the Governor's Office; early testing, evaluation and intervention by testing all children entering kindergarten; and lobbying to get more federal money.

"I think you need a governor who needs to know what's going on," said Republican candidate John Carroll.

Carroll said he is working on a similar paper on solutions to the state's special education woes. He said he plans to file a rarely used motion to have the federal court take a second look at the consent decree and maybe set it aside.

Carroll said the misdiagnosis or poor diagnosis not based on science is leading to services that aren't necessary and are contributing to the costs.

The goal now is to get the consent decree behind the state and get control away from the federal courts.

The campaigns for Republican Linda Lingle and Democrat Jeremy Harris did not return phone calls asking for comment.

E-mail to City Desk


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