Budget funds new school data system, special ed. grants

Budget funds new school data system, special ed. grants

(Calif.) Gov. Gavin Newsom appears to have won two key policy debates related to special education funding and a new plan for fixing the state education data system.

As part of the budget agreement, lawmakers will allocate close to $500 million for a new grant program supporting early intervention for students with disabilities.

Under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, schools are required to begin providing learning services to children in their infancy if identified as disabled.

In 2015-16, more than 41,000 infants and toddlers with special needs received services from K-12 schools at a cost of more than $400 million. Those expenses have been growing with district’s paying an ever larger share from out of their general fund budgets.

While there has been wide support in Sacramento to help schools provide services to young students with disabilities, the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst raised concerns that without more restrictions, the money could be used elsewhere.

It appears that no further restrictions have been placed on the new grant program, although there is intent language suggesting that the money should be used to supplement existing special education resources.

The data issue stems from the inability of the state’s various school-related record-keeping systems to interact with one another.

The primary data tool, the California Longitudinal Pupil Assessment and Data System, or CalPADS, cannot communicate with other education and social data programs including those monitoring teacher accreditation and university and community college students, as well as state welfare and local service programs.

Lawmakers sought to solve the issue by running a bill that would allocate money needed to plan and begin building a new system. Newsom proposed putting the same goals into the budget.

An issue was raised about the makeup of the committee that would be charged with planning the development of the new system. Under SB 2, the state would reauthorize the California Postsecondary Education Commission that would oversee a planning committee, which in turn, would report back to the Legislature.

Under Newsom’s plan, the governor’s office would be the lead agency and the Legislature’s role would largely be diminished once the funding had been allocated.

The pending education omnibus bill, AB 75, would appropriate $10 million for the “Cradle to Career Data System,” with the money being provided to the governor’s Office of Planning and Research, which will lead the planning of the new project and report back to the Department of Finance and the Legislature next July.

Other highlights from the trailer bill:

  • Provides $4 million one-time General Fund for the Special Olympics of Northern and Southern California.
  • Allows for the Commission on Teacher Credentialing to receive donations, bequests, grants and philanthropic funding.
  • Provides $350,000 to merge the California Dashboard, the Local Control Accountability Plan electronic template, and other local school site and school district reports into a single web-based application.
  • Allocates $500,000 to create a workgroup to increase the ability of schools to draw down federal funds for medically related services for students and improve the transition of thee-year olds with disabilities from regional centers to schools.

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