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Overview of Special Education Funding Models


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Updating Special Education Out-of-Home Care Funding

February 23, 2021 - In the Supplemental Report of the 2020-21 Budget Act, the Legislature tasked our office with convening a work group and providing recommendations for updating the special education Out-of-Home Care formula by March 1, 2021. This report provides background on the issue, describes the assessment and recommendations of the work group, and includes our office’s comments for the Legislature as it considers updating the formula.

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History of Special Education Funding in California

February 27, 2018 - This post traces the history of state special education funding in California to better inform conversations about how this funding might be allocated going forward.

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The 2013-14 Budget: Proposition 98 Education Analysis

February 21, 2013 - The Governor's 2013-14 budget provides $56.2 billion in total Proposition 98 funding--a $2.7 billion (5 percent) increase from the revised current-year level. The Governor dedicates new monies to paying down school and community college deferrals, transitioning to a new K-12 funding formula, restructuring adult education, funding Proposition 39 energy projects for schools and community colleges, and adding two mandates to the schools mandates block grant. The Governor also proposes various changes and consolidations relating to special education funding. Though we think the Governor's basic approach of dedicating roughly half of new funding to paying down existing obligations and the other half to building up base support is reasonable, we have concerns with many of his specific Proposition 98 proposals. In the areas of adult education, Proposition 39 energy projects, mandates, and special education, we provide alternatives for the Legislature 's consideration. Our assessment of an alternative to the Governor's Proposition 39 proposal can be found both in the Proposition 98 report and in a standalone budget brief--2013-14 Budget: Analysis of Governor's Proposition 39 Proposal.

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Overview of Special Education in California

January 3, 2013 - Special education is the catch-all term that encompasses the specialized services that schools provide for disabled students. Developing a more thorough understanding of how California’s disabled students are served is the first step towards improving their educational outcomes. Toward this end, our primer is intended to provide the Legislature and public with an overview of special education in California—conveying information on special education laws, affected students, services, funding, and academic outcomes.

Also, see our 2016 animated video series Overview of Special Education in California.

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The 2022-23 Budget: Special Education Proposals

January 25, 2022 - This post provides background on various special education programs, describes the Governor's proposals related to these topics, and offers associated recommendations and issues for the Legislature to consider.

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[PDF] The 2021-22 Budget: Special Education Proposals

February 4, 2021 - This post provides background on special education preschool and school Medi-Cal billing, describes the Governor's proposals related to these topics, details our assessments of the proposals, and offers associated recommendations for the Legislature to consider.

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[PDF] Reform of Categorical Education Programs: Principles and Recommendations

April 1, 1993 - This report identifies problems with the existing system of categorical programs, establishes principles the Legislature should use in reforming categorical programs, and recommends consolidation and restructuring of a number of programs based on these principles.

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[PDF] Special Education: Nonpublic School and Nonpublic Agency Study

September 30, 1998 - as Submitted by American Institutes for Research

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[PDF] Review of School Transportation in California

February 25, 2014 - In 2013-14, the Legislature undertook a major restructuring of school finance but retained the state’s Home-to-School Transportation (HTST) program. Recognizing the need for additional reform, the Legislature asked our office to make recommendations for improving the state’s approach to funding school transportation. The state’s existing approach for allocating HTST funding is widely recognized as outdated and irrational. Given the problems with the state’s existing funding approach, we recommend the Legislature replace it with one of three alternatives. In the report, we describe and assess the trade-offs of the following three options: (1) fund transportation services within the new Local Control Funding Formula; (2) create a new, targeted program to help districts that face extraordinarily high transportation costs; and (3) create a broad-based program whereby the state pays a share of each district’s transportation costs. Any of the three options would be a notable improvement over the state’s current approach.

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[PDF] Improving Education for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Students in California

September 21, 2016 - California opened its first school for the deaf in 1860, long before it established most other forms of special education. Today, we estimate California spends more than $400 million a year to educate approximately 14,000 students who are deaf or hard of hearing (DHH). On a per–student basis, California spends substantially more to educate DHH students than other groups of children, including students with various other disabilities. Despite California’s long experience with and relatively large expenditures on DHH students, these students continue to lag far behind their hearing peers on statewide assessments of reading and math. In this report, we undertake a comprehensive review of DHH education in California. We begin by describing the state’s current approach to DHH education, then identify several major shortcomings with this approach, and conclude by making recommendations to address the shortcomings.

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[PDF] New Funding Model for Special Education - A Preliminary Report

January 1, 1995 - In February 1994 the Legislative Analyst's Office (LAO) in its Analysis of the 1994-95 Budget Bill cited a number of major problems with the state's current special education funding formula. Among the major shortfalls cited were (1) unjustified funding variations among local education agencies (LEAs), (2) unnecessary complexity, (3) constraints on local innovation and response to changing requirements, and (4) inappropriate fiscal incentives. Based on this analysis, the Legislature adopted language in the Supplemental Report of the 1994 Budget Act directing the State Department of Education (SDE), the Department of Finance, and the LAO to jointly review the Master Plan for Special Education (MPSE) and propose a new funding model by May 31, 1995.

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Special Education

February 24, 2005 - We make several recommendations related to special education.

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[PDF] Analysis of the 1994-95 Budget Bill, K-12 Education Chapter

February 22, 1994 - Analysis of the 1994-95 Budget Bill, K-12 Education Chapter