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Change needed in California special education system, some say

Did you know that in 1975, Congress promised to give schools in the nation additional funds so that accommodations could be made for students with special education needs? The additional funds were supposed to account for 40 percent of the "excess" cost of these accommodations, providing schools with the resources they need to provide special needs students with the education they deserve. Unfortunately, "the federal government has never paid more than 20 percent," explains a Feb. 19 article in Ed Source, leaving school districts and the state to foot most of the bill for education.

Special education comes with a hefty price tag, as you may know. Here in California, more than $8 billion in funds are needed to provide special education services for approximately 702,000 students each year. According to the Ed Source article, federal funds only account for roughly 12 percent of this amount while school districts cover about 43 percent. The remainder is picked up by the state, which has a history of allocating funds unevenly to the programs in California.

It's because of this and many other reasons that the Statewide Special Education Task Force has put together a proposal the group thinks will make some much needed to changes to special education in our state, thereby providing better access to education for special needs students. In addition to making changes to the distribution of funds to these programs, the group is also asking the state to help reimburse special education teachers who decide to get additional certification for general education so that they can be more helpful in the classroom overall.

Although efforts in the past to make changes to the special education system have not resulted in any significant changes, the group is hopeful that this new proposal will be the effective one that helps integrate special education into general education so as to better serve students across the state.

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