Report: Special Education in California an ‘Urgent Priority’
One in eight students in California receives special education services, but the state’s schools are often “ill-equipped” to serve them, and funding for students with disabilities has not “kept pace with district costs,” according to a collection of research papers released Tuesday by Policy Analysis for California Education.
The collection of papers comes as California Gov. Gavin Newsom has proposed a $900 million increase in funding for special education. On Friday, the state’s Department of Finance released “trailer bill” language that explains the governor’s plan to increase the base funding formula for special education students. His plan also includes $250 million for preschoolers with special needs, $600,000 to study accountability for special education and $4 million for dyslexia research.
The PACE reports note when the state enacted its Local Control Funding Formula in 2013 — which provides districts with additional funding for English learners, low-income students and students in foster care — special education students weren’t part of the formula.
California has seen an increase in the percentage of students identified with disabilities, from 10.3% in the 2014-15 school year to 11.7% in 2018-19, with much of the increase due to autism-spectrum diagnoses, the researchers wrote. But for multiple years, the state has been found to be out of compliance with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, and students with disabilities trail students overall on outcomes such as attendance, suspension rates and college and career readiness, according to the papers.
The PACE papers also note California ranks behind most states in providing students with mental health services at school.
The researchers recommend:
- All teachers receive training in “high-incidence disabilities,” such as learning disabilities and behavioral or social problems.
- Call for greater implementation of “multi-tiered systems of support” — a term for delivering universal instruction and support for all students and then moving to more targeted, one-on-one services depending on students’ needs. They highlight Florida as an example of enacting policies that aim to create more positive views among educators toward inclusion.
- More attention to transitions — for preschoolers with special needs entering kindergarten and for older students moving into higher education or the workforce.
Excerpted from “Report: Special education in California an ‘urgent priority‘” in Education DIVE. Read the full article. The policy papers are available on the Policy Analysis for California Education website.