On May 2, 2018 approximately 250 Special Education Local Plan Area (SELPA) Directors, School District Administrators & Teachers, SELPA Community Advisory Council (CAC) members, advocates and parents of special needs children, and some students descended upon our State Capitol to meet with regionally local Assembly Members and Senators to address pending legislation to equalize funding and to add SPED Preschool funding (AB 3136) and to provide additional funding for Family Empowerment Centers (FECs) to support families and to provide more accountability and transparency (AB 2704).
We were welcomed by Jim Anderson, Chair of the CA SELPA Administrators Association, and David Toston, Chair of the Coalition for Adequate Funding for Special Education, followed by a series of inspiring student and parent speakers.
Parent and advocate, Feda Almaliti, representative of the Mission Valley SELPA, spoke about her complicated experience navigating districts, regional centers and healthcare to get necessary services for her autistic sons, which culminated in working with two other moms to get legislation passed to require health insurance companies to reasonably fund ABA services (SB 946). Feda made us laugh and cry with her sense of humor as well as realistic observations about the flawed system.
Feda encouraged continued advocacy for all kids, especially regarding the missing systems for 22+ adults and to “Surround yourself with those on the same mission as you!”
The San Mateo delegation was lead by the San Mateo County SELPA Director, Anjanette Pelletier, and included myself (Chelsea Bonini, co-founder of snkids.org), Ray Avila, Director of Special Education in the Pacifica School District, and Jason Krienke, Director of Special Education in the South San Francisco Unified School District.
We met with Assembly Member Marc Berman, with Senator Jerry Hill‘s Capitol Director, with Senator Scott Wiener, and with Assembly Member Kevin Mullin‘s Capitol Education Director.
It was a very busy day at the State Capitol with First5 and other important groups in the building to advocate for their respective issues. We were very appreciative of the generosity of time that each of our local legislators’ Capitol offices afforded us to address our important issues on this busy day!
The CA CAC Leadership Collaborative, which was founded by Sylvia Gonzalez-Youngblood and Angie Sutherland in 2012 to bring together the States’ SELPA CAC Members to better serve in their roles as parent resources and as advisors to local School Boards, hosted a Networking Event following the day of meetings. It was a terrific opportunity to learn about what CACs do around the State, how the CA CACLC is working toward transparency of the SELPA organizations and increased impact of the state-mandated CACs.
Overall, it was an inspiring day of learning and advocating for increased resources to support early intervention, family supports, transparency and accountability for special needs kids. Of course, this is just the tip of the iceberg as far as special education issues that need our attention, but it’s definitely a start!
Thank you to everyone who made this day of sharing and learning possible. Thank you to the San Mateo County SELPA for inviting me to attend and to share my story as a parent of a special needs child.
To the many parents who were connected through this event, I hope the conversations about how to improve the systems, opportunities, expectations for success, and outcomes for all special needs kids will continue!