December 14, 2011 This November, the State Board of Education (SBE) unanimously approved the Sonoma County Charter Special Education Local Planning Area (SELPA), a charter-only SELPA which will help improve special education service delivery to students attending charter schools throughout the state. This new SELPA offers more options to charter schools by giving charters the ability to have autonomy over their special education operations.
The Sonoma County SELPA is the third charter-only SELPA in California, following the El Dorado County Office of Education (EDCOE) SELPA and the Los Angeles County (LAC) SELPA. EDCOE SELPA serves 138 charter schools from across the state, while LAC SELPA serves charters located within its county boundaries. The new SELPAs follow an SBE vote in January 2010 which allowed for the creation of charter school-only SELPAs, and participation of charter schools in SELPAs outside of their geographic region.
The first new SELPA was EDCOE. This pioneering SELPA changed the landscape and dialogue for the delivery of special education services in California charter schools, and had a direct impact on the creation of the Sonoma County SELPA.
"By default, charter schools are treated as public schools of their authorizer ('schools of the district') for purposes of special education. In this arrangement, charters must rely on their authorizer for all special education oversight, funding, and services, which has resulted in obstacles and strained relationships," said Gina Plate, Senior Advisor for Special Education at CCSA. "But the charter-only SELPAs are a way to ensure that charters will see continued growth and expansion of services to students with disabilities."
The addition of this new charter-only SELPA will provide a much needed option for charter schools seeking status as independent local education agencies (LEAs) for special education, which requires membership in a SELPA. Securing LEA status allows charters to have more direct control over their special education programs, funding, and autonomy over special education operations and that's essential to fulfill the promise of charter schools for all students.
The Sonoma County Charter SELPA will initially serve charters located in Northern California and will begin operations on July 1, 2012.
The Sonoma County SELPA's website is www.charter.sonomaselpa.org. The website contains all of the application materials and information for charters interested in finding out how to join. The application deadline is just around the corner, January 20, 2012. Charter schools interested in applying to the Sonoma County Charter SELPA should contact Catherine Conrado at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Members interested in learning more about special education options should review our newly revised Special Education section of the CCSA Website, which contains background information, worksheets to assist schools in evaluating their special education needs, and template materials.