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Special Education Advisor

October 22, 2010

Son-in-law of Special Olympics founder suspends AB 3632 mental health services for children

On October 8, 2010, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed the $133 million dollars that was supposed to reimburse county mental health facilities for providing services to special needs children. He also suspended AB 3632, which stated that county mental health facilities were to provide services for special education students. As a result of this, the State of California will no longer be required to provide mental health services for these children. School districts will now be responsible for paying for mental health services, so long as they are identified in an IEP. My question is….how could this happen?

In April 26, 1986, Arnold Schwarzenegger married Maria Shriver….the daughter of Eunice Kennedy Shriver, the Founder of Special Olympics. She was a pioneer in the struggle to improve the lives of children with disabilities. It began in 1958, when Eunice received phone calls from parents whose children were rejected from summer camps due to their disabilities. She took it upon herself and started a summer camp in her own backyard. Eunice always loved and played sports, so she wanted to give disabled children the same opportunity where they could have fun and be accepted for who they were. The first year, Camp Shriver Had 75 children….by 1968, there were 40 camps nationwide. Those camps lead to the first Special Olympics in 1968 at Soldier Field in Chicago. A quote from Eunice, “more than 40 years later, a large part of the world sees people with intellectual disabilities as people who can learn, perform, contribute and change our lives for the better. I think Special Olympics has played a strong role in leading that change, and I think we will continue to play a leadership role in opening the eyes and hearts of the rest of the world.”

In May of 2010, Governor Schwarzenegger submitted his May revision to his proposed budget which included suspending AB 3632 for one year and deferring the $133 million reimbursement payment. The Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO), a month later, recommended continuing AB3632 for one more year and reimbursing the $133 million owed because:

  • Suspending AB 3632 would be temporary, confusing, and disruptive;
  • Proposal does not address the significant transitional issues associated with the change; and
  • Eliminating AB 3632 funding could violate federal special education spending maintenance-of effort (MOE) requirements.

Based on this recommendation the State Legislature didn’t allow for the suspension of AB 3632 in the final budget.

Present day, the Governor goes against the recommendations of the LAO and his mother-in-laws life’s work and still suspends AB 3632 through a line item veto. Now the school districts in California have to deal with the repercussions of his actions. By suspending AB 3632, the burden falls back on local school districts; that have not had time to come up with a proper transition plan or budget for the added expense. Even though a school district cannot refuse services due to a lack of funding, they might try to limit services to only the most severe. It will be up to the parents to make sure they have the necessary documentation to show their child has a need and that services are properly documented in the IEP. The question is….what is going to happen to the children who desperately need this help and who Eunice Kennedy Shriver had dedicated her life to helping? What types of chaos will this cause for the school districts all over the State of California? I guess we will find out!!!

Update – On October 21, 2010 a class action lawsuit to preserve lifeline services for more than 20,000 students was filed in federal court by Public Counsel, Disability Rights California, Mental Health Advocacy Services and Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher. Read the AB 3632 Class Action Lawsuit Press Release