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Burbank school district may see state money for special education

Change in state law could make $1M available for schools' behavioral services.

September 20, 2013|By Kelly Corrigan, kelly.corrigan@latimes.com

The Burbank Unified School District could recover about $1 million in funding for special education following the repeal of a bill regulating, but neglecting to pay for, how educators intervene when students exhibit behavior problems.

The 1990 law required schools to create detailed intervention plans to deal with students who assault others, cause injuries to themselves or cause damage to property. State officials, however, did not reimburse districts for the costs of implementing the plans. 

In 1994, this spurred a number of districts — including San Diego Unified — to formally demand to be paid back. 

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In July, the state Legislature repealed the bill, which in turn prompted the state controller to issue instructions on how school districts could access more than $1 billion set aside for that purpose.

“We still have good procedures in Burbank,” said Sunita Batra, the director of special education and psychology services for Burbank Unified. 

“We make sure we complete behavioral emergency reports when there is a behavioral emergency... and develop a behavioral support plan and monitor that closely.” 

School board President Dave Kemp voiced his doubt in state officials’ promises.

“This is almost like promising a kid a bicycle for his birthday and hope he forgets about it,” Kemp said. “That’s my impression with the way the state handles this stuff.” 

School board member Larry Applebaum concurred.

“Is the repeal of this bill one of those smoke and mirrors acts where they’re going to just say, ‘Well, we’ve taken the bill off the books now, we’re going to kind of move narrowly down the road, negating the need to even have a conversation about what’s owed from the previous mandate.’ ...Is that what you think’s going to happen here?” Applebaum asked.

The $1 million in one-time funds could be paid to Burbank next year, though Batra said there are still a number of approvals that need to occur at the state level.

“Hopefully we’ll see that money,” she said. “I don’t want to see, ‘I owe you,’ from the state.” 

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Follow Kelly Corrigan on Twitter: @kellymcorrigan.

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