- The California Department of Education would require the Los Angeles Unified School District to redirect state funds from special needs students to others with high needs, but the district’s school board said this week it would fight to maintain the money for students with disabilities.
- The Los Angeles Times reports the district spends $1.4 billion on special education students each year, $400 million of which comes from the state or federal government, and board members argued redirecting external funding would increase class sizes and force layoffs.
- California’s Local Control Funding Formula directs additional money to schools serving targeted disadvantaged youth — English language learners, low-income students and foster children — and while special education students are not targeted, they often fall into one of these categories as well.
Tight budgets can pit the needs of different groups of students against each other. Special education students, English language learners, students from low-income families, and foster youth all need extra support to be successful in school. Yet a finite pool of money makes it difficult for everyone to get the services they need. In Los Angeles, an advocacy group sued the district in 2015, arguing it wasn’t using state money as intended by the law.
The No Child Left Behind Act forced schools to increase the achievement of targeted groups, but it didn’t say how states had to ensure the right services were offered, creating a wide variety of strategies in funding formulas across the country. Illinois’ current budget mess is, in part, connected to a battle over revising its funding formula for more equitable distribution.