Governor Proposes Changes to Requirement To Provide Some Mental Health Services to Students
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) has proposed suspending a state requirement that counties provide mental health services to about 30,000 students, the Los Angeles Times reports.
California law requires counties to provide mental services for students, and in turn counties are eligible for financial reimbursement for such services from the state. However, the state has allotted no money to counties for providing mental services.
Schwarzenegger has covered some of the counties' costs by redirecting $69 million in federal education funds. Counties spent about $140 million on student mental health services in 2004.
Under Schwarzenegger's proposal, school districts would pay for mental health services and $100 million in federal and local money would be redirected to school districts to hire mental health staff or contract with county offices to provide mental health services.
However, education officials said school districts would need at least an additional $40 million to provide mental health services. The Legislative Analyst's Office also said an additional $40 million would be needed, although LAO agreed with Schwarzenegger that having districts run the program would be more cost-effective than having counties administer such programs.
Paul Goldfinger, vice president of School Services of California, said school officials "are in a state of panic" over Schwarzenegger's proposal. He added, "No one knows what is going to happen or how to plan for next year."
Steve Morford, director of special education for the Riverside Unified School District, said districts would be unprepared if sudden changes occur. "To suddenly decide that educators can do a better job than the counties at providing mental health services isn't logical or reasonable," he said, adding, "If they gave me enough time and a modicum of resources, I could figure something out. But that isn't happening" (Rubin, Los Angeles Times, 3/9).