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Archive for September, 2010

Special education bill also awaits governor’s signature

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:

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

Posted on Thursday, September 9th, 2010
Under: Education, Theresa Harrington | No Comments »

No teachers’ union endorsements in MDUSD trustee race

By Theresa Harrington

In an unexpected move, the Mt. Diablo Education Association teachers’ union has decided not to endorse any candidate in the November election, which includes seven candidates vying for three open seats.

The candidates are: incumbent Linda Mayo, attorney Jeffrey Adams, retired CFO Roy Larkin, retired teacher Lynne Dennler, county education trainer Cheryl Hansen, technology executive Brian Lawrence and retired real estate appraiser Jan Treizise (who has announced she will not actively campaign for the seat).

Incumbents Dick Allen and Paul Strange have decided not to seek re-election.

Teachers’ union representatives interviewed the candiates last month. Following delilberations, union President Michael Langley sent me the following statement:

“After reviewing the written questionnaires of all seven school board candidates, and conducting interviews on Monday night, 30 August, the interview panel recommended that the Executive Board not bring to the Representative Assembly an endorsement of any candidate.
Each candidate had some positive attributes. There was a consensus on the panel that no single candidate had a track record in this unusual fiscal environment that indicated a firm commitment to addressing the needs of our membership in guiding the district to a path of improved educational opportunities for our students.
We hope to continue to work with all school board members in returning the educational opportunities so well deserved by this community. We will renew our focus on statewide issues that will facilitate a return to the highest quality educational experience.”

This marks a huge shift from the 2008 board election, when the union heavily backed trustee Gary Eberhart and newcomer Sherry Whitmarsh, who ran as a slate against then-board President April Treece and Adams (who were running independent of each other). Eberhart and Whitmarsh won.

Two years ago, Mayo was viewed as part of the board majority with Treece and Allen. The union wanted to overturn that majority in part to oust then-Superintendent Gary McHenry and to usher in new leadership, expecting to end contentious contract negotiations.

But, as the state budget worsened, the new board did not approve the teachers’ union contract, as educators hoped they would. Now, the district is pushing for furlough days and reduced benefits at the negotiating table to balance its budget.

Mark York, executive director of the association, said the union expects to sunshine its contract proposal Sept. 14.

How do you think the union’s decision not to endorse any candidates will affect the election?

Posted on Wednesday, September 8th, 2010
Under: Education, Election, Mt. Diablo school district, Theresa Harrington | 12 Comments »