**Ehlers, R. (2013, January). Overview of special education in California. Sacramento, CA: Legislative Analyst’s Office. Available at http://www.lao.ca.gov/reports/2013/edu/special-ed-primer/special-ed-primer-010313.pdf
This report provides a comprehensive overview of special education in California. After summarizing state and federal special education law, the authors discuss the process for determining which students should receive special education services and highlight the variation in services provided by California based on individual student needs. In addition to its focus on the regional structures for organizing special education and the role that Special Education Local Plan Areas play in the delivery of special education services, the report also discusses how local, state, and federal funding streams are leveraged to support special education. The report concludes with a look at how California’s students with disabilities are faring academically. While performance has improved over the last decade, the majority are still scoring below proficient on state assessments.
Parrish, T. (2012, December). Special education expenditures, revenues, and provision in California. California Comprehensive Center at WestEd. San Mateo, CA: American Institutes for Research. Available at http://cacompcenter.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/CA_CC_Special_Education_2012.pdf
This paper provides an overview of special education spending across the nation and, more specifically, in California and investigates how special education service provision can be more efficient with limited resources. The author finds that while California’s special education spending per student has been increasing, it is the third lowest-spending state with regard to special education and the fourth lowest for educational outcomes for students with disabilities. The report highlights two California districts—Sanger Unified School District and Val Verde Unified School District—that are achieving better outcomes for students with disabilities with fewer funds compared to other districts. The two districts attribute their success to the use of Response to Intervention (RTI) strategies as well as integrating students with disabilities into the general classroom. The paper concludes with possible policy implications, such as the need for better data on special education expenditures and revenues and changing the focus from special education spending to general education spending.
Hehir, T. (2009). Policy foundations of Universal Design for Learning. Wakefield, MA: National Center for Universal Design for Learning. Available at http://www.udlcenter.org/sites/udlcenter.org/files/ Hehir_Policy_Foundations_of_Universal%20Design_for_Learning_0.pdf
This article maps the emergence of Universal Design for Learning (UDL) onto the history of special education policy. It begins with a discussion about policies that have advanced inclusive special education practices, focusing on Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and the court cases that helped define its least restrictive environment component during the 1980s and 1990s. Next, the article focuses on the reauthorization of IDEA in 1997, explaining how the inclusion of specific regulations governing assistive technology devices and services began to make discussions of UDL possible. Then, the passage of No Child Left Behind and the 2004 reauthorization of IDEA continued to move policy in a UDL direction through provisions on National Instructional Materials Accessibility and RTI. Finally, the article offers important policy considerations around assessing special needs students, urging policymakers to consider revising their assessment policies to align with the more individualized effective and efficient learning practices embedded in UDL.
**This document is considered a priority reading.