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***California schools hit "panic button" over cost of SPED; 21% increased cost next year

May 12, 2019, Los Angeles Times: California’s education funding is at a record high. So why are schools short on cash? There may be no greater paradox in California government these days than the fiscal health of the state’s public schools. Education funding is almost certain to hit a record high when a new state budget is enacted next month, and yet local school districts are hitting the panic button when it comes to their finances…. Give credit where it’s due: California’s economy has steadily grown since 2010, and voters approved tax increases on the wealthy in 2012 and 2016 to help fund education. But at the same time, a few important things have complicated the flow of dollars to the classroom. One is the rapid growth in expenses for special education. More children are qualifying for additional services, particularly those diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder. Even preschool-age kids are entitled to services funded by existing school budgets. The state government’s special education expenses are projected to rise 21% next year, according to the governor’s new budget. The impact on local dollars is even bigger — those funds pay for 61% of special education expenses, according to a legislative analysis…. “When you look at the dollars that reach the actual schools, the increase in overall funding is being outstripped by the increase in mandated costs,” Gordon said. School districts in Los Angeles, Oakland and Sacramento have all sounded the fiscal alarm in recent months. And while measurements differ, there’s a consensus that California trails almost every other state in per-pupil funding. The state laws that mandate growth in school funding in most years simply aren’t keeping up with cost pressures. “Something needs to change,” Newsom said in his State of the State speech in January. “We need to have an honest conversation about how we fund our schools at a state and local level.”


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