Sacramento Road Trip – Lobbying Items – Elementary Schools
2007 K-6 Education Priorities
Santa Clarita Valley Sacramento Advocacy Trip
Castaic School District Newhall School District
Saugus Union School District Sulphur Springs Union School District
Issue 1: Special Education Preschool Funding
Special education is a very expensive, underfunded, mandated program that consumes both special funding and a large amount of general funds in all school districts. General fund “encroachment” – the amount of money taken from the general fund of a district to make up the difference between the cost to operate special education programs and federal/state special education funding – is at all time highs.
District 06-07 General Fund Projected Encroachment*
Castaic $1.25 million
Newhall $1.8 million
Saugus $2.6 million
Sulphur Springs $1.4 million
*These amounts do not include transportation of special education students, another grossly underfunded mandate.
Much of the encroachment is due to the fact that districts receive no state funding, and little federal funding, for special education preschool programs. The provision of services for 3 to 5 year olds with diagnosed disabilities is mandated by the Individual with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). When the system of special education funding (AB602) was reformed in 1998, it was based on K-12 expenditures. While no state funding is specifically designated for the preschool program it has grown dramatically in the last five years. Much of the growth can be traced back to the diagnosis and demand for service for students with autism. Autism and other disabilities, once diagnosed, require early and intensive therapies. It has been assumed that the costs can be absorbed in the already meager funds received for K-6 special education.
2006-07 Preschool Costs by District, including salaries and materials
District Student Count Preschool Cost (less federal funding)
Castaic 33 $348,099
Newhall 102 $572,647
Saugus 162 $1,000,338
Sulphur Springs 50 $864,797
Regional SELPA classes 46 (costs shared among all districts) $700,000
Notes: Student count as of December 1, 2006. Most preschoolers attend less than the full K-6 school day
Proposal: This will be a significant cost issue for the State. At the very least we want to start to sensitize Sacramento to the growing need.
We believe that the State can begin to acknowledge the cost of special education preschool by extending the districts’ “revenue limit” per “average daily attendance” (ADA) income to preschool enrollees. This amounts to about $5400 per full time student (2006-07), to be applied proportionately to the preschool child’s attendance time in class. While it would not underwrite the full cost of services, it would serve to provide some support to a growing and unfunded area, thus reducing the overall encroachment of special education into regular education budgets.
Recommendation: Provide revenue limit per ADA for special education preschool students
Issue 2: Bifurcation of Special Education Cost Of Living Adjustment (COLA)
Special education funding comes from two sources – federal funds and state funds. Starting in 2005-06, state law was amended to provide that the state would only pay for COLA and growth on the state share of special education rather than the combined state and federal. This change in law was enacted to enable the state to use increases in federal aid for special education to pay for COLA and growth on the federal share.
In 2006-07, there was no increase in federal aid for special education, and the impact of this change in law is being felt. The State provided a 5.92% COLA on general fund income and, with other program improvements (equalization and deficit reduction), the overall income in a typical district rose by about 8%. However, because of bifurcation, the special education increase represents only 4.07% for the average district. And since it seems likely that there will be at best a minimal increase in federal aid for special education in 2007-08, the bifurcation of COLA and growth is going to result in an ongoing shortfall for special education funding, unless corrected.
With special education costs, and the encroachment to pay for them continually eating away the regular education budget, the bifurcation will continue to have growing and serious effects into the future. Unless corrected, the low level of COLA and growth funding for special education is likely to result in efforts to limit special education expenditures, as school agencies strive to keep those expenditures contained and to the degree possible aligned with special education revenues. While the whole issue of an appropriate level of state support for special education needs to be considered, in the short term one thing is critical—that the state stop doing harm to special education funding.
If state law is amended to provide that special education COLA and growth be based on the statewide average SELPA funding rate, the problem would be solved. AB 850 has been introduced to correct the problem.
A recent Press Release from Assembly Member Torrico’s office summarized the intent of the bill:
AB 850 addresses the shortfalls that have increased as a result of reductions in federal funding. President Bush proposes to significantly cut special education funding by $290 million for the Individuals with the Disabilities Education Act in fiscal year 2008. The reduction would continue the underfunding of special education by the federal government. Over three decades, the federal government has provided less than one-half of the required funding promised under national law.
“There’s a growing gap between the Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) that is given for special education and the one that is given to revenue limits and categorical programs,” Assembly Member Torrico said. “In the 2007-8 fiscal year, that gap means special education’s COLA would be just 70 percent of the others. That funding burden then gets passed down to Special Education Local Plan Areas across the state. Local school board members are forced to patch funds together to make up for the loss of purchasing power.”
AB 850 would increase the state target to assure that all new students in special education receive base funding that is comparable to their counterparts already in the system and that any increase in funding go to SELPAs on a per ADA basis. Currently, new students to a SELPA are funded at a reduced rate, which has a negative impact on many growth districts where residents with special-needs children are boosting enrollment.
The Legislative Analyst’s Office recommended in its analysis of the 2006-07 budget that the Legislature give a full COLA to special education to keep the existing funding model intact.
Recommendation: Support AB 850