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Special education bill also awaits governor’s signature

By Theresa Harrington
Thursday, September 9th, 2010 at 6:05 am in Education, Theresa Harrington.

By Theresa Harrington

Although Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger just tweeted that he’s signed a law to help kids (Chelsea’s Law), there’s still no word on whether he intends to sign legislation that would authorize the state to distribute federal funds to schools.

I was contacted this morning by the spokesman for Assemblyman Marty Block, Lemon Grove (San Diego County), regarding another school bill awaiting the governor’s signature: AB 184.

Here’s an excerpt of Block’s Aug. 23 press release about that bill:

“Assemblymember Block’s Legislation to Restore Special Education Funding Clears Legislature

…This bill prevents the California Department of Education (CDE) from requiring school districts to repay the state for Special Disabilities Adjustment (SDA) funding they received in the previous fiscal year and already used to teach the special-needs students in their classrooms.

‘This legislation corrects a terrible mistake on behalf of the state that forces school districts to repay critical funding they used to provide special education resources to teach some of our neediest students,’ said Assemblymember Block. ‘School districts have already begun to see some of their funding revoked and in the face of devastating cuts to public schools, they simply cannot afford to make up the difference. In the absence of a budget agreement, this bill restores the funding to school districts and prevents them from making additional reductions to staff and classroom resources. AB 184 should be signed into law immediately.

Each year, $70 million in SDA funds are allocated statewide to assist school districts with high concentrations of students with certain costly disabilities including autism, emotional disturbance, visual impairment, hearing impairment, brain trauma and multiple disabilities.

Last June, CDE announced that it did not have the authority to distribute the funds that were included in the 2009-10 Budget Act. Furthermore, without emergency legislation CDE would start taking back the SDA funds from school districts that were already received and spent. On July 1, school districts started to see their special education funding taken back retroactively by the state.

This bill reflects the Budget Conference Committee’s action relative to the SDA funding. It provides for the continuation of the SDA funding through the 2010-11 fiscal year and repeals the existing formula on July 1, 2011. Yet, absent a budget agreement, the funding uncertainty may obligate some districts to layoff employees in order to meet immediate county office solvency requirements. This legislation will allow school districts to retain last year’s SDA allocation, money that has already been used to educate students in special education programs.”

Senate Bill 847, co-authored by state Assemblyman Tom Torlakson, D-Antioch, and Assembly Bill 185, authored by Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan, D-Alamo, would authorize the state Department of Education to distribute more than $2.1 billion in federal funds. Together, the bills would authorize the disbursement of $1.2 billion in funds approved by Congress last month to save jobs; $416 million in School Improvement Grants for low-achieving campuses; and $488 million in State Fiscal Stabilization Fund money intended to help support local education budgets.

Do you think the governor should sign these bills before going on a trade mission to China?

UPDATE: Governor has requested bills: http://bit.ly/aS9vxM.

Lt. Governor is expected to sign bills Friday, while governor is on trip.

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