Students with Disabilities and California’s Special Education Program

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January 2010-This report’s findings raise some important points for further research and policy debate. For one, special education is dynamic, always responding to the needs of the students it serves. Currently those needs appear to be changing, as autism rates climb and learning disability rates fall. This pattern may lead to higher spending levels in the future.

Second, special education spending is taking a growing share of school district budgets. From a budgeting standpoint, policymakers may find it useful to understand better the excess costs that districts face and the extent to which categorical funds offset them.

Lastly, by not renewing their exemption from the high school exit exam graduation requirement, California recently increased its stake in the educational performance of students with disabilities. Since the state now sets the same ultimate bar for success for both groups, state policymakers may want to devote more attention to closing the achievement gap between special education students and others.
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