Tuesday, January 29, 2002

Legislature weighs options
for special ed supervision

Several proposals seek to preserve
compliance with the Felix consent decree

By Crystal Kua

A Senate committee will hear a bill tomorrow that looks to fix problems found by a legislative investigative committee scrutinizing state spending in the Felix consent decree.

This comes as a House Legislative Management Committee gave the green light yesterday for the continuation of the Joint Senate-House Investigative Committee.

Legislature 2002 A House concurrent resolution, which now moves on to the House Finance Committee, extends the committee's life through next year's session, even though the composition of the Legislature could change with all legislative seats up for grabs in this fall's election.

Rep. Scott Saiki (D, McCully), co-chairman of the investigative committee, said the investigative panel wants to oversee the state's efforts to move beyond compliance.

"I think it's just an indication of the Legislature's concern about this issue," said Saiki, co-chairman of the investigative committee. "If the next Legislature wants to rescind it, it can."

State Auditor Marion Higa also told the Legislative Management Committee that her office, which did the investigative legwork for the Felix committee, has spent $340,000 of the $500,000 for the investigation.

Whether her office has enough funds will depend on the direction of the committee, she said.

The Senate Education Committee will take up a companion resolution tomorrow.

Senate Education Chairman Norman Sakamoto's committee will also hear the special-education reform bill.

Sakamoto said the bill is not intended to run a different course than the state is headed in while it attempts to comply with the Felix consent decree, which mandates improved special-education services. Rather, the Legislature wants operations to run more efficiently, he said.

"The car is running, but because it was put together so quickly, there's some loose nuts and bolts," Sakamoto said. "We're looking to tighten where the oil drips and the water leaks."

With the state slated to meet a final compliance deadline March 31, the federal court could scale back oversight later this year.

"We need to do our own monitoring," Sakamoto said. "Who's going to do the monitoring and the data collecting?"

The bill has several components, including setting up an Office of Educational Accountability and Performance with an executive director located administratively within the state auditor's office.

The accountability office would monitor schools' performance in educating all students and monitor the state's compliance with federal laws pertaining to children with disabilities.

The bill would also require cooperation by other agencies in providing information to the accountability office. The auditor's office, which has been the investigative arm of the committee, has raised concerns about not being given access to records.

Legislature Directory

Legislature Bills & Hawaii Revised Statutes

Testimony by email:
Include in the email the committee name; bill number;
date, time and place of the hearing; and number of copies
(as listed on the hearing notice.) For more information,
or call 587-0478.

E-mail to City Desk

Text Site Directory:
[News] [Business] [Features] [Sports] [Editorial] [Do It Electric!]
[Classified Ads] [Search] [Subscribe] [Info] [Letter to Editor]

© 2002 Honolulu Star-Bulletin