Sacramento, CA, Each year, Special Education Local Plan Area (SELPA) Administrators throughout the state come together as a community to speak with legislators about proposed bills that may impact education in California classrooms. This year’s Legislative Information Sharing Day took place on May 1, 2019, where an astounding number of supporters met with legislative representatives and staff. Parents, educators, and students attended this special event.
Parents and Educators Advocate for Funding Allocation to Create a Better System of Support for Students with Disabilities
Parents took to the capitol to share inspiring stories about how families with students with disabilities would be impacted by the proposed legislation. Their message focused on addressing the needed increase in education funding, as well as the current shortage of teachers in education. The collective effort to inform legislators is part of an ongoing effort to improve educational outcomes for all students with and without disabilities.
Several parents of the El Dorado SELPAs joined together in this year’s Legislative Sharing Day with members of the Program Specialist team to share their message with the legislative decision makers. Jennifer Sage, a Doctor of Behavioral Neuroscience, was one of the many parents in attendance for Legislative Sharing Day 2019. She had this to say about her experience at the capitol, “The education policy aide that we were assigned (Senator Toni Atkins’ wonderful aide, Megan Baier), was welcoming, responsive, and generous with her time and information. I realized that although they likely hear stories and pleas for support from a wide variety of causes every day, you don’t need special training or experience to have an open conversation with legislators.” Without parents advocating like Dr. Sage, state legislators and their staff may not fully understand the impact potential legislation could have on California families.
Upon conclusion of the 2019 Legislative Sharing Day, Jennifer Sage left optimistic, “I was encouraged to hear that our governor shared his dyslexia diagnosis, and therefore has a personal connection to issues that affect our kids with special needs. His support, along with a progressive legislature, has the potential to vitally impact the special education funding landscape now and for years to come.”
AB 428, “Special Education Funding” – Would implement key fiscal recommendations, including addressing special education funding equity by:
- Establishing funding within AB 602 for programs serving preschoolers with disabilities
- Providing additional funding for students with significant high-cost disabilities.
- Leveling up base AB 602 funding rates to the 95th percentile, equalizing funding for all students with disabilities
- Amending AB 602 to allow use of either current school year ADA or prior school year ADA, whichever is greater, in the aggregation of total SELPA ADA for multiple district SELPAs.
AB 988, “Teach Shortage” – Would (Berman) Teacher credentialing: out-of-state prepared teachers: education specialist credential. California has the opportunity to remove an existing barrier in order to respond to the teacher shortage that specifically impacts low-income, minority special education students. AB 988 would:
- Allow out-of-state special education teachers who choose to teach in California to use two years teaching in California, while the teacher holds a Preliminary credential, to demonstrate the teaching experience requirement needed to obtain a “Clear” credential.
Many SELPAs provide targeted professional development and special education teacher training to their member LEAs, in addition to supporting and monitoring the compliance activities assigned by the California Department of Education. The recent analysis from the Assembly Committee on Education Bill relayed the following: According to the Learning Policy Institute (LPI), “Over 1,700 underprepared special education teachers in 2015–16 were hired on emergency-style permits, which are issued to teachers with little to no preparation to teach.
AB 236, “Special Education Programs: Family Empowerment Centers on Disability” – Would provide the following:
- Revise the base grant for FECs from $150,000 to $237,000
- Prioritize creation of new FECs in areas of high need
- Improve coordination between the California Department of Education and FECs by developing a uniform and rigorous data collection, monitoring and reporting system.
As California embraces major education reforms in funding and accountability, the focus remains on students with disabilities. SELPAs are critical partners in the work utilizing the California Dashboard, differentiated assistance and the continuous improvement model for LEAs in need of improvement.
AB 598, “Hearing Aids: Minors” – This bill would require a health care service plan contract or a health insurance policy issued, amended, or renewed on or after January 1, 2020, to include coverage for hearing aids, as defined, for an enrollee or insured under 18 years of age, as specified.
AB 1546, “Pupil Health: Mental Health” – This bill would authorize a county mental health plan to contract with a local educational agency (LEA) to provide Early and Periodic Screening Diagnosis, and Treatment (EPSDT) services, including mental health assessments, and mental health, social work, and counseling services, to Medi-Cal eligible pupils. The bill would require the department to permit an LEA to make claims for federal financial participation directly to the department for EPSDT services, to examine methodologies for increasing LEA participation in the Medi-Cal program, and to seek federal approval to implement these provisions.
AB 1322: “School-Based Health Programs” – This bill would require the State Department of Education to, no later than July 1, 2020, establish an Office of School-Based Health Programs for the purpose of, among other things, administering health-related programs under the purview of the State Department of Education and advising on issues related to the delivery of school-based Medi-Cal services in the state. The bill would require the office to be supported through an interagency agreement with the State Department of Health Care Services and by federal matching funds available through the Administrative Claiming process for eligible staff time, and would authorize the office to receive additional funds from grants and other sources. The bill would increase the annual funding limit for the activities of the State Department of Health Care Services that support the LEA Medi-Cal billing option to $2,000,000, and would require that $500,000 of that amount be available for transfer to the State Department of Education to support the office pursuant to that interagency agreement.
Guest Speakers for Legislative Information Day 2019
- 9:35 am to 9:50 am: Heather DiFeede, Chair CA SELPA Administrators Association & David Toston, Chair for Adequate Funding for Special Education
- 10:30 am to 11:00 am: Liam Richardson Student Speaker Petaluma City Schools, Sonoma County SELPA
- 11:00 am to 11:20 am: Tanya Lieberman Assembly Education Comm, Honoree
- 11:20 am: Erin Evans and Alice Kessler: Getting Around the Capitol
Get Involved in Legislative Information Day
If you are interested in participating in next year’s Legislative Information Sharing Day, the best way to get more information is to speak with your local special education director. You may also want to attend one of the area SELPA’s go-to source for parents and community members who can be called upon to share stories and advocate on behalf of their child and special education. Please also reach out to your local legislator and encourage them to support legislation that would improve special education in California. You can find out who your representatives are by going to http://findyourrep.legislature.ca.gov/ and entering your address.
For more information about parent resources and the CAC, please visit the Charter SELPA website at: https://charterselpa.org/parent-resources/.