The Burbank Unified School District spent more than $15 million
during the 2002-03 school year to educate nearly 1,800 students with
special needs, including those who travel outside the district and
state to receive instruction.
While the state typically foots the bill for special education,
the district had to come up with more than $3 million to pay for
programs and services after Gov. Gray Davis deferred funds because of
the state budget crisis, district officials said.
In all, the district spent $3,122,407 on special education,
including nearly $1 million for transportation outside the district,
said Steve Bradley, BUSD assistant superintendent of business
Of the district’s 1,750 special- education students, 19 went
outside the district for instruction and seven were sent out of
state, according to Sandra Gaynon, the district’s director of
special-education and psychological services.
The district paid out-of-state facilities $146,414 for the seven students, two of whom remain in facilities in Texas and Utah.
Students are placed out of state only when there is a need for
24-hour supervision in cases where they are runaways or could be
considered dangerous to themselves or others, she said.
Gaynon said out-of-state tuition at facilities equipped to handle
the needs of special education students is $1,000 to $1,500 per child
less than it would be in California.
“In California, you cannot keep a child against his will in a
facility, but you can in other states,” Supt. Gregory Bowman said.
“That’s a decision you make with the parent.”
The district, meanwhile, is obligated by law to pay for parents to
travel to and from out-of-state facilities twice a year to visit
their children. The cost for their lodging also is paid by the
Joy Peterson, a senior attendance technician at John Burroughs
High School, is among those who believe the money the district spends
to send students outside the district and state for special education
could be better spent, or at least reevaluated, in light of the
“Surely we have sites closer to Burbank where we can send the
children,” Peterson told school board members last month. “I do not
understand the need to use a site in Arizona, another one in Texas,
another one in Utah, and I believe another one in Redwood City.”
The district, which is attempting to counter a projected
$3-million budget deficit for 2003-04, is considering several cuts to
special education to help balance its budget.
The district’s budget committee has recommended eliminating a
program specialist, a savings of $101,716. Bowman has recommended
reducing the number of special-education psychologists by
one-and-a-half, which would save the district more than $163,000.
“The district, when it negotiates the [special-education] costs
for the coming year, needs to make sure the amount billed [by the
state] more closely approximates the cost it takes to have that
student in the program,” said Debbie Kukta, chairwoman of the budget
committee. The committee is charged with making budget-reduction
recommendations to the school board.