2013-08-20 19:14:10 - Grassroots Effort Successfully Defeats Agency Attempt To Earmark Education Dollars For Bureaucrat
ONTARIO, CA – Parents and community organizations, including the Inland Empire Latino Coalition and the Greater Ontario Democratic Club; joined forces to successfully defeat an attempt by an educational “shadow” agency—the West End Special Education Local Plan Area (WESELPAthat would have set aside scarce educational dollars to fund bloated administrator salaries rather than actual educational services for children.
The West End SELPA is a multi-district agency, formed for purposes of providing special education services to children with disabilities. It is comprised of the following school districts: Alta Loma Elementary, Central Elementary, Chaffey Joint Union High, Chino Valley Unified, Cucamonga Elementary, Etiwanda Elementary, Mountain View Elementary, Mt. Baldy Joint, Ontario Montclair Elementary, and Upland Unified.
The agency’s annual budget, approximately $200,000,000, is
made up of local, state and federal tax dollars. Dr. Gary Thomas (San Bernardino County Superintendent of Schools) is the Chairman of the WESELPA governing board.
Using education dollars, SELPAs throughout the state, formed a Political Action Committee (PAC) called “The Coalition for Adequate Funding in Special Education They hired lobbyists to push through a stealth legislative agenda. Rather than bringing their agenda forward through the transparency of policy committees at the state Legislature, the SELPA PAC, surreptitiously included it in the enormous state budget, making it virtually undetectable to the public. The SELPAs made themselves out to have the best interest of children with disabilities at heart and to be their voice.
They sought to restrict the ability of school districts to have a say in how some of the special education dollars were to be used. They wanted language in law that would set aside over $90,000,000 (ninety million dollars) statewide to be used exclusively for SELPA employees. Under the SELPA proposal, school districts could not use the money to hire teachers or educational specialists that would actually provide educational services to children.
A grassroots effort was launched by individual parents and community organizations to oppose the SELPA PAC agenda. “ WESELPA positions do not represent the interests of children with disabilities and their parents. On the contrary, WESELPA has an adversarial relationship with parents who pursue their rights and retaliates against them—commented Steven Figueroa (President of the IELC and Education Advocate). Parents told Legislators how districts in WESELPA resort to involving the police or Child Protective Services when a parent advocates for better education for their disabled child. Additionally, the group asserted that any additional funding for the SELPA would most likely be used to litigate against children with disabilities rather than to provide appropriate educational services as mandated by law.
The community strongly supported the Governor’s proposal to move $91 million (earmarked specifically for regionalized services and program specialists), into the AB 602 base.
The efforts paid off! The SELPAs did not succeed in their attempt to use education dollars to augment the already bloated salaries of its administrators (the WESELPA secretary makes $114,000 per year)
Per the California Department of Education website, the adopted budget:
"Consolidates Program Specialists and Regionalized Services and Staff Development funds into the AB 602 allocation formula
For the entire document, please see www.cde.ca.gov/nr/el/le/yr13ltr0724.asp