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CSBA Releases The Landscape of Special Education in California, a report on the laws, regulations and best practices for educating students with disabilities

New report analyzes special education system and its effect on personal development, equity and student achievement


SACRAMENTO, Calif. (June 5, 2019) – Special education plays a critical role as schools strive to increase equity and improve outcomes for California’s 6.2 million public school students. To help guide this work, the California School Boards Association has released: The Landscape of Special Education in California: A Primer for Board Members. The report provides an extensive look at the state’s special education system, including its laws, structures and best practices. 

The report is divided into five sections: 

  • California’s Children and Youth with Disabilities provides facts about California’s students with disabilities and an overview of key issues related to disabilities.
  • Special Education and the Law provides a broad overview of the laws that govern the provision of educational-related services to youth with disabilities and the mandates and requirements included in those laws.
  • SELPAs and Special Education Funding in California outlines the administrative structures and oversight of special education in California, including Special Education Local Plan Areas (SELPAs). It also offers an overview of state, federal and local funding for special education in California.
  • California’s Teachers of Students with Disabilities addresses preparation and credentialing for teachers who work with students with disabilities, from education specialists to general education teachers.
  • Best Practices in Special Education provides a brief overview of best practices, from the role of special education in the context of general education to research-proven practices that benefit students with disabilities. 

The report also includes an appendix with an extensive set of resources about each topic. 

More than one in 10 California students receives special education services and the success of our educational system is tied to our ability to improve conditions, instruction, learning and personal development for students with disabilities. As evidenced by 2018 California School Dashboard results, many districts are struggling to meet the needs of this diverse student population. In order to improve the educational experiences of students with disabilities, governing board members must understand the complex array of laws, regulations and funding sources involved in special education. 

“Providing proper support to students with disabilities is both a moral and legal obligation, as well as a practical necessity,” CSBA CEO & Executive Director Vernon M. Billy said. “To meet the mission of our public school system, it is important for board members and other education leaders to understand the gifts that each child brings to school and work to ensure that our schools can meet their particular needs.”

Special education is complex, and California is taking ambitious steps to raise the expectations, supports and accountability for local educational agencies in their efforts to educate students with disabilities. The Landscape of Special Education in California will help governance teams make decisions that ensure equity, transparency and accountability. 

The report is part of CSBA’s ongoing exploration of ways in which schools can better provide instruction and services to students with disabilities. In May, CSBA collected feedback on how to improve special education from more than 200 CSBA delegates representing every part of California. That input, along with the new report, will inform the organization’s continued advocacy work on special education. 


CSBA is a nonprofit association representing nearly 1,000 PreK-12 school districts
and county offices of education throughout California.