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January 5, 2004

For More Information, Contact:
Daryl Savage at (650) 688-6384


PALO ALTO– The Ravenswood City and Cambrian Union School Districts breathed a sigh of relief on January 1st when laws granting these districts access to greatly needed funds went into effect. AB 1350 and AB 1649 were part of a three-bill education package authored by Assemblyman Joe Simitian (D-Palo Alto) and signed into law by the Governor.

“2003 was a tough year to find funds for a variety of worthy projects,” observed Simitian, “so it was especially gratifying to be able to help our local schools. The funds provided in AB 1350 and AB 1649 will be used to support special education programs. No matter how tough the times, it’s important that we ensure these students have access to the resources they need to be successful,” continued Simitian.

The third bill of the group is AB 1330. It creates the California Outdoor Environmental Education Program – a public/private partnership to bring outdoor environmental education to California’s schoolchildren. This is the first time in this state that outdoor education programs will be systematically developed, privately funded, and then studied for their impact on student behavior and learning.

AB 1350 – Ravenswood City School Distrct/Special Education

AB 1350 reimburses the Ravenswood City School District $1.33 million for special education costs incurred in complying with a court order.  AB 1350 allocates federal special education funds, rather than State funds, to pay the Ravenswood claims, and specifically requires that the funds be used for special education purposes.

Ravenswood had struggled with the state over these funds for two years before approaching Simitian. Ravenswood Superintendent Floyd Gonella explained, “We needed someone who could make sense of these arcane statutes, and push past the bureaucracy. Joe sat down with legislator after legislator to explain why we were entitled to this money. He lobbied the Governor’s office. He really went to bat for us.”

AB 1649 – Cambrian Union School District/Skilled Nursing Facilities

AB 1649 allows children who are severely disabled to receive special education funding and services, whether they receive those services in a local school environment close to home, or in a skilled nursing facility far removed from their home and local school district.  The bill is designed to relieve small school districts from the burden of funding the entire cost of special education services for severely disabled children in skilled nursing facilities.

Although the new law applies statewide, it stems from and directly affects the Cambrian Union School District in San Jose, which has been particularly hard hit by the impacts of the current law and funding system.  The school district is home to fewer than 3,000 students.

AB 1649 provides that funds in the State’s “shared cost pool” may be used for youngsters in skilled nursing facilities. Typically, money from the shared cost pool goes to programs for foster care and youngsters placed in group homes. AB 1649 will allow Cambrian and other small school districts to use these funds to pay for the costs of educating children in skilled nursing and pediatric acute care facilities.

AB 1330 California Outdoor Environmental Education Program

Assembly Bill 1330 provides a mechanism for private funding of outdoor environmental education programs and an evaluation of program effectiveness. Under the Program, a total of four projects are anticipated. The State Department of Education will administer the Program with the goal of developing a model for implementation by interested school districts.

“AB 1330’s goal is simple,” said Simitian, “give students an opportunity to learn the importance of ecology. Let them sail a ship, or go backpacking in the hills. Let them understand the connection between the science of ecology and the world around them. In the process, they wind up learning something important about themselves.”

“Keeping scarce resources in our classrooms is more important today than ever,” said Simitian. Despite the fact that 2004 looks to be just as challenging when it comes to funding issues, Simitian is poised to move a bill designed to assist Sequoia Union High School District with a funding problem when the Legislature reconvenes in January.