Most SELPA leaders are proud and active members of several organizations that advocate on various special education issues, including the Coalition for Adequate Funding of Special Education (CAFSE), the Association of California School Administrators (ACSA), and the Council of Exceptional Children's Council of Special Education Administrators (CASE), among others. Staff from these organizations, our educational management partners, and our own governmental relations consultants track and review the approximately 500 to 1000 bills proposed each legislative session and analyze and recommend positions based on potential impact to students with disabilities. While we track and review bills on a wide range of subjects including assessment, autism, behavior, credentialing, dyslexia, English, learners, and mental health, we are most frequently called upon to author letters of support to our state and federal representatives in the area of increased funding for services for students with disabilities.
In 1975, the United States took a major step forward in prioritizing inclusion and equity of one of our most underserved groups of citizens. With the passage of the Education for All Handicapped Children Act (now known as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, or IDEA), children with disabilities were assured a free and appropriate public education (FAPE). Over six million children with disabilities are no longer limited by their families' ability to afford private education, forced to attend costly state institutions, or worse, stay home and miss out entirely on the benefits of a public education. IDEA ensures that children with disabilities may attend public schools alongside their peers to the maximum extent possible. And, schools and communities are enriched when all children have a right to a free and appropriate public education.
November 2020 marked the 45th anniversary of IDEA. Yet, in spite of all that has been accomplished on behalf of children with disabilities, much more remains to be done. Under the 1975 Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) legislation, the federal government committed to pay 40% of the average per-pupil expenditure for special education. In the 45-year history of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, the federal contribution has always fallen far short of the congressional commitment to fully fund IDEA, and current federal funding is under 15% nationally, and approximately 8% in California. Local and state budgets have been forced to absorb the shortfall, and another effort is being mounted to create a path to full funding, in the form of House Resolution 1878 (Huffman, D-CA), and it's companion Senate Bill 866 (VanHollen, D-Maryland). These measures would make regular increases to the federal commitment to fund the IDEA until it reaches the 40% threshold in fiscal year (FY) 2028–29.
Legislative Action Day
Each Spring, the SELPA Administrators of California organizes a Legislative Action Day at the State Capitol in Sacramento. SELPA leaders, parents of students with disabilities, and other special education leaders meet with legislators and staffers to deliver messaging around certain key issues, and frame these issues around how they impact the day to day for students, educators, and families. As part of Leg Action Day, special seminars are hosted and particular legislative staff are presented with special recognition for their particular collaborations with the SELPA Administrators of California and/or the Coalition for Adequate Funding for Special Education. At the right, Tanya Lieberman, Chief Consultant to the Assembly Education Committee receives an award, given July of 2021, from the SELPA Administrators of California for her "unwavering support to California's students with disabilities and their families." Her support was essential in the recent allocation of $550 million for Alternative Dispute Resolution and Learning Recovery funding for students with disabilities related to the COVID-19 pandemic.