Districts pay more for special ed, feds underfund

California school districts are shouldering a bigger share of the cost of special education, reflecting a further shift of the burden from state and federal governments, according to a new report from the state Legislative Analyst’s Office. Between the 2004-05 school year and 2010-11, the local portion of special education services grew from 32 percent to 39 percent. During that same period, the percentage paid by the federal and state governments fell. School districts now pay more than twice what the federal government puts in, or about $3.4 billion a year. The LAO report says the feds have never paid their full share under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

About 10 percent of California’s K-12 students – nearly 690,000 – receive special education services. The majority of them have learning disabilities, such as dyslexia or speech or language impairments. However, those are declining while the number of children with more serious disabilities, which require more extensive and expensive services, are on the rise. Autism diagnoses have grown by 241 percent in the past decade, while other health problems, including asthma, epilepsy and diabetes, have increased by 120 percent.

The average annual cost of education for a student with disabilities has grown by 9 percent in recent years, to about $22,300, which is $12,700 more than the cost of educating a student without disabilities. The federal government pays $2,300 of that, the state covers $5,400, and the remaining $5,000 comes out of school district general funds. State law requires schools to provide special education services for a child from age 3 through the end of the school term after a student turns 22.


Filed under: Special Education



Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Comment Policy

EdSource encourages a robust debate on education issues and welcomes comments from our readers.

  • To preserve a civil dialogue, writers should avoid personal, gratuitous attacks and invective.
  • Comments should be relevant to the subject of the article responded to.
  • EdSource retains the right not to publish inappropriate and offensive comments.
  • EdSource encourages commenters to use their real names. Commenters who do decide to use a pseudonym should use it consistently.
  • Please limit comments to 250 words to prevent comment clutter; if you intend to say more please link out to a place that contains your full comment.
  • Comments with more than one link automatically enter moderation. Comments from new commenters are automatically moderated.
  • Repeated violation of this comment policy will lead to a warning. Continued violations will lead to a ban.

2 Responses to “Districts pay more for special ed, feds underfund”

EdSource does not track who "likes or dislikes" a comment. We only track the number of likes and dislikes.

  1. navigio on Jan 7, 2013 at 12:08 pm01/7/2013 12:08 pm

    • 000

    Note that that $5000/per student cost covered by the district exceeds the amount of unrestricted funding virtually every school gets on a per-child basis. In other words, if districts were properly funded for these services, schools could literally double their unrestricted funded resources targeted for all students.

    Also note that in some countries, every child is treated the way we treat special education students in the sense that they each have an individualized learning plan. When one sees what other countries are able to do on an individual student basis, the way we treat public education is absurd.

  2. Nor Cal on Jan 7, 2013 at 8:54 am01/7/2013 8:54 am

    • 000

    I have read the entire report. The best solution to follow for CA is to pass Special Education Vouchers. Special Education in CA is a complete failure. Give parents the option to educate their children in a private school for special needs children. If parents are happy with the services in the public schools they can keep them there. The truth of the matter is 40% of all children in Special Education are dyslelxic and need specialized reading instruction such as Orton-Gillingham, which the public schools do not offer. The public schools are 30 years behind the research. The system is broken…parents need to either go outside and hire tutors or spend $30,000 on a private school…this is completely unfair to families in this state. Our public school did not know the signs nor symptoms of dyslexia and had absolutely no idea what they were doing. The children are promoted until they fail…this clearly is the absolute worst system of education in the US….
    BTW, 10 states have Special Education Vouchers. The parents are responsible for the difference in tuition between what the private schools cost and what the school districts give them. This would eliminate costly litigation and benefit the children. The current system of Special Education is complete waste of time for dyslexic students. It is morally wrong what the public schools do to these children.

Template last modified: