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ERIC Number: ED571011
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2016-Nov
Pages: 35
Abstractor: ERIC
Special Education Finance in California
Hill, Laura; Warren, Paul; Murphy, Patrick; Ugo, Iwunze; Pathak, Aditi
Public Policy Institute of California
California's system of special education served about 718,000 students in 2014-15, or about 11.5 percent of the K-12 population. It is expensive, consuming some $12 billion in federal, state, and local dollars annually. Special education operates within a legal framework that sets it apart from the rest of the K-12 system. The state's enactment of the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) in 2013 consolidated most state categorical programs into district base grants in order to move decision making to the local level. However, special education was preserved as California's largest remaining categorical grant operating mostly outside the LCFF governance framework. This report examines California's special education finance system in light of the principles that underlie LCFF--local control and accountability, transparency, and equity. It also draws on the findings of the 2015 Statewide Special Education Task Force report, which makes several recommendations to improve California's system. The task force envisioned a unified system in which general and special education are part of a seamless program of student services. California's main program for financing special education, AB 602, was developed nearly two decades ago. Researchers find several positive elements in AB 602. Most importantly, because it distributes funds based on census counts of all students, not counts of students with special needs, it avoids creating financial incentives to identify students for special education services. In other respects though, AB 602 falls short. In order to align California special education with the principles of LCFF and move towards a more seamless system of K-12 education, recommendations include the following: (1) funding districts directly including special education funding as part of a district's LCFF allocation; (2) preserving AB 602's census count method of distributing special education dollars, but developing ways to make funding more equal on a per-student basis; (3) developing new ways to protect small districts and charter schools from extraordinary special education costs by encouraging pooling arrangements or insurance programs; and (4) better support for local infant and preschool special education programs, ensuring that the needs of young children with disabilities are served. [For the technical appendices to this report, see ED571012.]
Public Policy Institute of California. 500 Washington Street Suite 800, San Francisco, CA 94111. Tel: 415-291-4400; Fax: 415-291-4401; Web site:
Publication Type: Numerical/Quantitative Data; Reports - Evaluative
Education Level: Elementary Secondary Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: Dirk and Charlene Kabcenell Foundation; Stuart Foundation
Authoring Institution: Public Policy Institute of California
Identifiers - Location: California
Grant or Contract Numbers: N/A