October 1, 2010 (Sacramento) -- Legislation by Assemblymember Marty Block (AD-78) to restore special education funding to cash-strapped school districts was signed by Governor Schwarzenegger. AB 184 prevents the California Department of Education from requiring school districts to repay the state for Special Disabilities Adjustment funds that districts received in the prior fiscal year and already spent to enrich the classroom experience for special-needs children.
“AB 184 is a life saver for some of our neediest students across the state and provides immediate assistance to school districts already struggling to make ends meet and maintain high quality instruction,” said Block.
He added, “Now that this legislation is signed, schools will no longer be punished by a terrible oversight and will be able to keep this funding that serves as a critical resource for developing special education programs in the classroom. In these difficult economic times, we cannot afford to shortchange our students, and it is with legislation like AB 184 that we ensure a continued investment in the future of our state.”
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. In the absence of a legislative fix, school districts started to see their special education funding taken back retroactively by the state. Now, school districts will be able to retain last year’s SDA allocation, money that has already been used to educate students in special education programs.
AB 184 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, without a budget agreement, the funding uncertainty might have obligated some districts to layoff employees or raid their reserves in order to meet immediate county office solvency requirements.
The bill was sponsored by the San Diego Unified School District. San Diego County is one of the counties in the state with an elevated concentration of special education students that require particularly high-cost education services.
Districts in the county receive $17 million or 25% of the total SDA funds allocated each year.
San Diego is one of two home ports designated by the U.S. Navy for exceptional families. “Exceptional families” is a term that applies to families with autistic children that need the kind of medical and educational services that are offered in San Diego. As a result, San Diego Unified and other school districts in the county have extraordinarily high concentrations of autistic students, and this funding is important to providing these children with a quality education.
The school districts that will benefit from AB 184 include small, medium and large districts throughout San Diego County. For example:
Cajon Valley Union SD budgeted the receipt of $1,090,000 in SDA funds for 2009-10;
Chula Vista ESD budgeted the receipt of $950,000 in SDA funds for 2009-10;
Grossmont Union HSD budgeted the receipt of $1,250,000 in SDA funds for 2009-10;
La Mesa-Spring Valley SD budgeted the receipt of $700,000 in SDA funds for 2009-10;
San Diego USD budgeted the receipt of $9,000,000 in SDA funds for 2009-10; and
Sweetwater Union HSD budgeted the receipt of $1,400,000 in SDA funds for 2009-10.
Other districts that will benefit from this legislation include:
Los Angeles USD budgeted the receipt of $22,051,000 in SDA funds for 2009-10;
Garden Grove USD budgeted the receipt of $6,185,000 in SDA funds for 2009-10; and
Merced COE budgeted the receipt of $2,402,000 in SDA funds for 2009-10.