AUSD examines new state budget

School district receives no new funding for special ed students, despite rise in special ed growth

ATASCADERO – Atascadero Unified School District Assistant Superintendent Jackie Martin presented Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposals for the 2018-19 state budget and K-12 education this January. Special education costs have increased in 2016-17 due to the percentage change in enrollment versus growth in students with disabilities, however overall funding declines, according to a public briefing at the last school board meeting by Martin.

Martin said there is no mechanism in place to increase funding based on student needs.  

Based on low (0.02 percent) growth in enrollment since 2010, according to a chart provided by Martin, the State has seen a 2.71 percent increase in students with disabilities during that time period.

“There’s definitely a growing percentage increase of those students, so we’re going to continue to see an increase in cost for children with special needs,” Martin said.“We simply don’t have the funding and at some point in time the State is going to need to address this, and the federal government as well, obviously,” she added, mentioning that AUSD’s special education numbers went up as well as the State’s as a whole. Enrollment also went up at AUSD, in line with State findings.

“The general fund to support those needs is growing,” Martin said. “I see 65 percent contributions. I see 75 percent. I see 55 percent. You know it’s a supplemental program. It’s not intended to fully fund the program.”

Martin defined special education as an “underfunded supplemental program” when asked for clarification by Trustee George Shoemaker. Martin’s said she’s seen special education identification as it affects district funding change since the late 90s.

“Last year there was a lot of conversation and pressure regarding special ed funding and they were supposed to take the year to study it — they didn’t,” she said.

She said, “There was even conversation about rolling special education completely onto the Local Control Funding Formula and doing something like that, but I doubt it would be based on your identifying numbers. It would probably be a percentage of your base.” She remembers last year SELPA programs were “up in arms” because that particular finance model would dissolve the SELPA program all together. “That all crashed, so I’m not sure where it’s going to go,” Martin said.

The governor proposed a modest one-time and ongoing funding for special education programs, including a 2.51 percent cost-of-living increase, estimated at $13.58 per ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act). The 2018-19 estimated AB 602 Statewide Target Rate increases to $554.57, according to the governor’s proposal.

“In our SELPA [Special Education Local Plan Area], we are fortunate. We get about $600 per ADA,” Martin said, adding that the number goes up and down depending on county-wide ADA growth.

Martin said special education teachers are hard to find and retain. The proposal includes $100 million in one-time funding to implement programs to increase and retain special education teachers.

You may contact Reporter Beth Giuffre at [email protected] for questions and/or polite feedback.

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