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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Friday, November 2, 2001

Ruling on special-ed receiver set for Nov. 30

By Alice Keesing
Advertiser Education Writer

U.S. District Judge David Ezra will rule on Nov. 30 whether he will appoint a receiver over the state's special education system.

Ezra has had oversight of the system since the state signed the Felix consent decree in 1994, agreeing to improve services. After seven years of missed deadlines, Ezra said in September that he was giving the state one last chance to avoid a receiver.

He laid out a series of benchmarks and set the deadline of Nov. 1. That deadline passed yesterday, but Ezra will not make his ruling until the end of the month.

Department of Education staff have said they are optimistic that they have done what it will take to avoid receivership.

Court-appointed monitor Ivor Groves is expected to file his findings and recommendations with the court on Wednesday. He already has indicated that the state has made considerable progress, although the state may fall short of two requirements.

That includes the requirement to raise to 85 percent the number of special education teachers who are licensed or certified. The department last week said it expects the number to be no less than 80 percent.

The department also is struggling to make its new computer information system fully operational. Designed to reduce the amount of paperwork for special education staff, the system has been plagued with bugs. Teachers say it can take 20 minutes to download some forms.

Meanwhile, it appears the DOE will have at least 27 of its 41 school complexes in provisional compliance as required.

If the state's efforts do meet with Ezra's approval, the DOE faces another deadline in March to show continued improvement. Some observers say that deadline could be more challenging because the DOE will have to bring into compliance areas that have consistently been plagued with problems. That includes school complexes in the Maui district, on the Big Island and in the Leeward district of O'ahu.