The Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO) has provided fiscal and policy advice to the Legislature for 75 years. One of the most important responsibilities of the LAO is to analyze the annual Governor’s budget. In recent years, the office has presented a series of analyses from the beginning to the end of the budget process on overarching fiscal issues as well as specific departmental budget proposals and offered its recommendations for legislative action. The Governor’s 2021-22 proposed budget makes significant investments in special education including a $300 million on-going investment to be allocated to school districts based on the number of pre-school age children living in the district. The purpose of the funds are to supplement existing services, promote inclusive practices, and cover early intervention services.
Federal law requires school districts to begin providing special education services to all children with disabilities upon their third birthday, however, historically the state has had challenges meeting this requirement. The proposed funding is a step toward ensuring and expanding special education pre-school programs are sufficient to meet the needs of preschool age children with disabilities. The LAO report provides a good analysis of the funding challenges, the potential impact of the unrestricted funds, and recommendations for aligning special education funding through the existing special education base formula. The report can be read here: https://lao.ca.gov/reports/2021/4345/special-education-proposals-020421.pdf