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.
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.
October 24, 2022 - This post summarizes overall Proposition 98 funding and K-12 education spending in the 2022-23 budget package. It is part of our Spending Plan series, which contains posts focused on each major sector of the state budget.
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.
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.
November 6, 2019 - Recent legislation directed the Legislature and administration to work collaboratively to consider changes in how the state organizes, delivers, and funds special education, with the overarching intent to improve outcomes. With this report, we aim to inform these fiscal and policy conversations by providing an overview of special education in California.
Update 11/8/19: Adjustments made to per-student education costs
November 28, 2023 - This post summarizes overall Proposition 98 funding and K-12 education spending in the 2023-24 budget package. It is part of our Spending Plan series, which contains posts focused on each major sector of the state budget.
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.
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.
February 6, 2017 - In 2013-14, the state created the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) for county offices of education (COEs). With this funding, COEs are required to (1) provide alternative education to certain at-risk students and (2) oversee school districts’ budgets and academic plans. COEs may use any funding available after completing these tasks on optional activities that reflect their own priorities. We have concerns that providing funding directly to COEs for alternative education and optional activities detaches school districts from the decision making process of how to best serve their students. To address these concerns, we recommend the Legislature shift that funding to districts and allow them to contract with COEs (or other providers) for services. Because oversight of school districts’ budgets and academic plans likely is both more effective and efficient when performed at the regional rather than state level, we recommend the Legislature fund COEs directly for these activities. Because our recommendations signify major changes in the way the state funds COEs, we recommend the Legislature phase in the new funding model over several years.
(2/17/17 -- Corrected district services funding for district in county on figure 5.)
January 1, 1995 - Presented To: Assembly Budget Subcommittee No. 2
February 23, 2023 - This brief provides an overview and analysis of the Governor's proposals to (1) provide ongoing funding for the highest-poverty schools and (2) make several changes to the system of transparency and accountability.
January 21, 2020 - In this report, we examine district budgets—both looking back at actual experiences to date and looking ahead at what experiences could be over the next few years. First, we provide background on districts and their budgets. We then discuss trends in districts’ main cost drivers. Next, we examine overall district fiscal health, with a particular focus on districts in fiscal distress. In the final section, we identify some ways the Legislature could help school districts address their cost pressures moving forward.
December 17, 2021 - This brief provides background on the state’s current funding allocation formula for special education, describes funding formulas used in other states, establishes a framework for evaluating these formulas, and offers some issues for the Legislature to consider.