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January 27, 2010 > Mission Valley SELPA holds community meeting

Mission Valley SELPA holds community meeting

By Miriam G. Mazliach

Representing Fremont, Newark and New Haven School Districts, the Mission Valley region's Special Education Local Plan Area (SELPA) held a Community Advisory Committee meeting on January 20 at the FUSD office. Parents, educators and community members were in attendance to hear about current legislation and funding for Special Education.

All school districts were mandated, as of 1977, to create a SELPA (group) in each geographic region, which would provide for the special education needs of children within that locale. SELPA then works to develop a plan detailing how special education services will be provided to those students who need them.

Additionally, the State Education Code requires that the SELPA has a Community Advisory Committee (CAC) who purpose is to advise their local Board of Education on priorities, concerns, Special Education policies and programs. The majority of CAC members must be parents.

Kathy Hebert serves as the Chairperson of the CAC for the Tri-cities area. "We get together and put on presentations, such as this one, for parents of special needs students." Hebert introduced the meeting's guest speaker, Ana Marsh, from the Special Education Division for the California Department of Education. Marsh stated that statistically the number of students identified and receiving Special Education services in California is about 10 percent of the general student population.

This percentage has remained relatively unchanged since the 2002-2003 school year. At that time, there were 631,838 students (10.1 percent) receiving Special Education services out of 6,244,403 students in California. In the most recent demographic survey from 2008-2009, there were 626,209 (10 percent) Special Education students out of a total general student population of 6,252,031.

Students who are identified for Special Education services must have an IEP or Individualized Education Plan that is developed and written by the school, teachers and parents to best meet the needs of the child. The IEP is written yearly to identify the services that the student currently needs. This plan also serves as a benchmark to set goals for achievement during the school year.

Parents who attended were concerned about changes with the California High School Exit Exam (CAHSEE). In the past, many students with disabilities had been able to receive a waiver, while others were required to pass the CAHSEE in order to receive a high school diploma. However, the legislature passed a series of bills in July, one of which, AB 4x2, added language that changed the CAHSEE requirements for special education students.

Marsh explained, "As of the 2009-10 school year, an eligible student with a disability is not required to pass the high school exit exam as a condition of receiving a high school diploma."

The State Board of Education will make a later determination about this exemption after considering alternate means of academic evaluation for Special education pupils.

Marsh further discussed that the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), part of the Economic Stimulus passed in February 2009, will provide California's school districts with an additional $1.2 billion to implement the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA '04, Part B).

"School districts have until September 30, 2011, to spend the IDEA recovery funds," explains Marsh. The ARRA funds are for one-time only, so Marsh advised districts to use them thoughtfully.

Parents interested in participating in and learning more about the special education process can contact Kathy Hebert, Chairperson of the Community Advisory Committee for Special Education, (510) 790-1391.

The California Department of Education also offers a Parent Help Line for related inquiries: 1-(800) 926-0648.

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