|SUMMARY OF:||A Special Report on the Department of Education and Early Development, Special Education Service Agency, October 9, 2007.|
Purpose of the Report
In accordance with Title 24 of the Alaska Statutes and a special request by the Legislative Budget and Audit Committee, we conducted a review of the Special Education Service Agency’s (SESA) activities. The review was structured to evaluate the activities of SESA using the 11 criteria set out in state sunset law. We also reviewed the current status of the seven audit recommendations set out in our agency’s prior sunset review report issued in December 20031.
In our opinion, SESA meets a valid public need by:
- assisting school districts to provide students with what are termed low-incidence disabilities an education that meets their unique needs;
- affording educational opportunities to enhance the capabilities of school district teachers and paraprofessionals;
- providing resources related to what are termed low-incidence disabilities; and,
- providing early intervention services for infants and toddlers with hearing or visual impairments.
Findings and Recommendations
Our December 2003 prior sunset audit report had seven recommendations. Three of the recommendations were implemented by SESA and one recommendation is no longer a significant audit issue. SESA has made significant progress in implementing the remaining three recommendations.
The prior recommendations and the current implementation status are as follows:
- SESA should transition to videoconferencing as the norm for delivery of its services.Implementation of this recommendation has proven to be problematic. The videoconferencing technology infrastructure has proven difficult to maintain and expand to a level where it can be consistently relied on to provide sufficient service delivery.
- SESA’s management should spearhead a state special education training consortium to formally advance the capabilities of school district personnel.The central intent behind this recommendation has been implemented.
- SESA should apply for a federal subsidy of up to 90 percent of its telecommunications expense.This recommendation has been implemented. SESA applied for and received a federal subsidy of $8,158 in FY 06 and $14,023 in FY 07. An application for a FY 08 subsidy is in process.
- SESA’s management should aggressively pursue opportunities for more diversified funding.SESA has taken action to expand and diversify sources for potential funding, although to-date the agency’s efforts have not resulted in a significant amount of additional funding.
- SESA should continue to enhance the availability of its specialized library to the general public.This recommendation has been implemented.
- DEED and the Governor’s Council should appoint representatives who will attend SESA board meetings.This recommendation has been partially implemented.
- As a statutorily-created entity of state government, SESA should investigate the necessity of filing tax returns and pay excise taxes.SESA has not implemented this recommendation. However, it is no longer a significant audit issue. As previously discussed, SESA management is applying for grants from governmental agencies and public or private foundations. The private foundations require submission of the requesting agency’s IRS informational tax return. Therefore, SESA management has determined that the potential for additional sources of revenue outweighs the annual $800 cost savings that would be realized if the IRS return was not filed.