The Legislative Analyst’s Office Releases Their Overview of Special Education Funding Models

On December 17, 2021, the Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO) published its report providing a comprehensive overview of Special Education Funding Models. To begin with, the report provides some background on special education funding and how it is allocated. The State of California allocates most special education funding (84 percent in 2021 22) through a base rate formula commonly called AB 602 (after its enacting legislation). The formula distributes funding based on total student attendance in Transitional Kindergarten through grade 12— regardless of the number of students receiving special education, the specific disabilities of those students, or the types of services those students receive. Findings also include the reality of a significant increase in the number of students who require special education services.

Special education funding is, and has been, a priority for the Newsom Administration as we have seen significant investments in the state budget over the last few years aimed at addressing schools’ growing special education costs. The LAO reviewed the four most common funding models used by different states to provide a framework for evaluating special education funding models. The four most common models include census-based, weighted, reimbursement, and resource-based funding. The LAO found that each of the models have significant strengths as well as limitations that should be considered by the Legislature in upcoming discussions about changes to the existing special education funding system.

Given the recent investments in special education and the Legislature’s interest in addressing concerns elevated by special education workgroups, studies, parents, students, and teachers, there is an expectation that we will see several related bills introduced in the upcoming legislative session. To learn about the funding models that were used to develop the framework, and what potential models the legislature may be considering, click HERE:

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