Bill looks to boost special ed. funding

Bill looks to boost special ed. funding

(Calif.) A coalition of key members of both the state Senate and Assembly have introduced legislation aimed at better equalizing special education money between regions.

AB 428 would establish a “high-cost service allowance” to better support special education local plan areas, or SELPAs, that serve more severely disabled students such as those with traumatic brain injuries or multiple disabilities.

The bill would also recalculate how funds are earmarked to serve early learners who have been identified with a disability. Finally, the legislation would broaden the number of SELPAs that receive a funding equalization adjustment.

Listed as authors of the bill are Assembly members Patrick O’Donnell, D-Long Beach, and chair of the education committee; Jose Medina, D-Riverside; Jim Frazier, D-Fairfield; Joaquin Arambula, D-Fresno; and Eloise Reyes, D-San Bernardino.

Also signed on are Senators Ben Allen, D-Santa Monica; Jim Beall, D-San Jose; and Scott Wilk, R-Lancaster.

As the cost of serving students with disabilities has grown in recent years, the Legislature has struggled to find a fair way to distribute state money. Most state and federal money is distributed by the regional SELPA to member districts.

The current system is based on special education costs from more than 30 years ago, when legislation shifted from rates based on classroom settings and staff usage.

At a hearing last year on SELPA inequities, the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst reported that state supplemental grants intended to help districts pay for students with severe disabilities is not enough. The supplemental grant is about $450 per-student, and the cost of serving those students often requires tens of thousands of dollars more.

Gov. Gavin Newsom’s budget plan would spend $575 million above existing state resources. Although he has suggested that most of that money should be used to help early learners, as proposed, districts would have discretion on how to use the money.

“Because special education costs have far outpaced special education funding in recent years, most schools receiving funding under the governor’s proposal likely would use the funds to help them cover their existing special education costs,” the LAO said in a report last month.

The LAO suggested lawmakers decide which goal is more important.

“If the Legislature wanted to promote early intervention programs, it likely would need to take a different approach—crafting a more targeted initiative with specific requirements and accountability measures,” they said. “As a targeted early intervention program likely could benefit many students and keep some students from later needing more expensive special educations services, the Legislature will want to think carefully about which of the governor’s two goals it would most like to address.” more