By Brittany Hanson/Garden Grove Journal
American history mixed with personal stories and budget crunching Tuesday night as the Garden Grove Unified School District Board of Education discussed funding and special education.
“One of my favorite people in history is Thomas Jefferson,” said George West, board member. “During his time as president in the nineteenth century he implemented Jeffersonian Democracy . . . one of the tenets of which was free education. Our charge as educators is to provide . . . appropriate placement for our students with special needs.”
Special education is provided for students and allotted for in the federal budget. However, the requirements made federally are not always matched monetarily with enough funding.
“There is a difference between what we spend on our special education students in Garden Grove and what we actually receive,” said Dr. Sue McCann, assistant superintendent of business services.
“We have $48 million as revenue [to dedicate to special education programs],” said McCann.
However, the cost of the program is much more than that, somewhere in the plus-$70 million range. The cost per student works out to about $15,000 per year depending on their need compared to the $5,000 in revenue received.
The difference amounts to an approximately $15 million “encroachment” that the district must cover in order to provide the services necessary to accommodate the particular needs of those students.
“The $15 million encroachment is a low amount and there is actually much more,” said McCann.
A budget adjustment that normally assists with the costs of special education is, according to McCann, not planned in the budget for this following year, creating at least a $6 million burden if not $7 to $8 million more, putting the usual $15 million encroachment at $22 or $23 million.
“It’s a misnomer to say that special education puts us in the hole,” said Linda Reed,
“We were promised money that we have not received.”
Reed, whose brother was one of the first students to benefit from special education programming in Garden Grove over 50 years ago, is an advocate for the maintenance of special education.
“It’s been 57 years, but I still remember my brother going to Jordan [Secindary Learning Center],” said Reed.
“Garden Grove, as well as other districts, still has the burden [of costs] but not the budget,” said Reed, “We need to let our teachers know that we appreciate what they do to provide education for our highest needs students . . . my brother made it all the way through the education system.”
“We are promised a level of funding that both our state and the federal government have neglected to fund us since the laws were enacted in the 1970’s,” said West.