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Thursday, November 11, 2010

California Cuts

Darrell Steinberg, president pro tem of the California State Senate, writes about Governor Schwarzenegger's cuts for mental health services (AB 3632) for special education students.

First of all, I am committed to leading a bipartisan effort to restore a bright financial future for all Californians. An important aspect of our economic recovery is directly tied to providing an appropriate education for all students, including our children with special needs. Providing these crucial services is an important investment for all of us. Please consider the following facts:

- "Robbing Peter to Pay Paul:" The Governor's actions in eliminating AB 3632 services will impose an additional fiscal burden on the general educational system; therefore, all students (not just the kids with autism) are being hurt by these cuts.

- Early intervention services enable about 1/3 of autistic students to attend regular classrooms with estimated cost savings of $10,000 to $20,000 per student. California is in the midst of an autism epidemic with over a 12 fold increase in this condition during the past two decades. Providing effective treatment for autism is a wise investment in our educational system.

- The U.S. Surgeon General has reported that one in every five children has some form of a "mental disorder." If untreated, many of these children will subsequently develop drug addiction, homelessness, incarceration (22% of prisoners have mental illness), and other costly, tragic outcomes that impose severe consequences on all of our communities and out State's general fund.

- Serious mental illness is associated with a national annual loss of earnings totaling $193.2 billion. Early diagnosis and treatment are essential to overcoming these disorders. Our society and our economic future will be better served by individuals who are "taxpayers rather than tax-takers."

- Governor's cuts are unconstitutional. Since the AB 3632 programs are considered as "mandates" (required services), they can only be reversed by the state Legislature. Mental health and disability rights advocates have filed a class-action lawsuit against the Governor. Regretfully, in the meantime, many school districts and students will suffer with uncertainty and chaos from these draconian cuts.

I hope that these comments are helpful in clarifying my position on the importance of restoring these services to our students and schools. Furthermore, I am very interesting in hearing from you directly. Let me know what you think by visiting my website (click here) or emailing my staff (Lou Vismara at .) Working together we can make a difference to improve the lives and outcomes for all of our students.