SUMMARY OF: A Sunset Review of the Department of Education and Early Development, Special Education Service Agency, December 18, 2003.

Purpose of the Report

In accordance with Title 24 and Title 44 of the Alaska Statutes (sunset legislation), we have reviewed the activities of the Department of Education and Early Development, Special Education Service Agency (SESA). The purpose of this audit was to determine if there is a demonstrated public need for the continued existence of this agency.

Report Conclusions

Alaska Statute 44.66.010(a)(14) requires that the Special Education Service Agency (SESA) be terminated on June 30, 2004 with AS 44.66.010(b) providing for a one-year wrap up period. If no action is taken by the legislature, the agency will be dissolved as of June 30, 2005.

We find that SESA has delivered a sufficient quantity and quality of service to justify the agency’s continuation in the public interest. We further support SESA’s continuation in its present form as a nonprofit corporation for the immediate future.

However, we also believe that much has changed in SESA’s operating environment since our last review almost a decade ago. This is a turning point for SESA, and some important redirection of its efforts is needed to ensure its sustainability in the years ahead.

At this point, SESA’s existing structure appears to be the most capable means for implementing the redirection detailed in our Findings and Recommendations section of the report. We recommend that AS 44.66.010(a)(14) be amended to extend SESA’s termination date to June 30, 2008.

Findings and Recommendations

In our prior review, we noted the need for the enabling statute to reflect any changes in the funding formula used by the Department of Education and Early Development (DEED). In 1998, SESA’s statutory funding formula was modified as part of legislation that overhauled the state’s support for public schools.

  1. SESA should transition to videoconferencing as the norm for delivery of its service.
  2. SESA’s management should spearhead a state special education training consortium to formally advance the capabilities of school district personnel.
  3. SESA should apply for a federal subsidy of up to 90 percent of its telecommunications expense.
  4. SESA’s management should aggressively pursue opportunities for more diversified funding.
  5. SESA should continue to enhance the availability of its specialized library to the general public.
  6. DEED and the Governor’s Council should appoint representatives who will attend SESA board meetings.
  7. As a statutorily-created entity of state government, SESA should investigate the necessity of filing tax returns and paying excise taxes.