Special Education Overview

California provides specially designed instruction, at no cost to parents, to meet the unique needs of children with disabilities. This instruction is provided in a variety of settings that allow infants and their families, preschoolers, students, and young adults to be educated with their peers as much as possible; that is, in the least restrictive environment. Special education services are available in a variety of settings, including day-care settings, preschool, regular classrooms, classrooms that emphasize specially designed instruction, the community, and the work environment.1 

To learn more about what Special Education is, who can receive services, and how it is organized and funded, click the below links to informational videos courtesy of the California Legislative Analyst's Office2:

What is Special Education? LinkInNewWindow
Who Receives Special Education? LinkInNewWindow How is Special Education Organized in California? LinkInNewWindow How is Special Education Funded in California? LinkInNewWindow

What is IDEA?3

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is a law that makes available a free appropriate public education to eligible children with disabilities throughout the nation and ensures special education and related services to those children.

The IDEA governs how states and public agencies provide early intervention, special education, and related services to more than 7.5 million (as of school year 2020-21) eligible infants, toddlers, children, and youth with disabilities.

Infants and toddlers, birth through age 2, with disabilities and their families receive early intervention services under IDEA Part C. Children and youth ages 3 through 21 receive special education and related services under IDEA Part B.

Congress reauthorized the IDEA in 2004 and most recently amended the IDEA through Public Law 114-95, the Every Student Succeeds Act, in December 2015.

In the law, Congress states: "Disability is a natural part of the human experience and in no way diminishes the right of individuals to participate in or contribute to society. Improving educational results for children with disabilities is an essential element of our national policy of ensuring equality of opportunity, full participation, independent living, and economic self-sufficiency for individuals with disabilities."

1 California Legislative Legal Analyst's Office, www.lao.ca.gov
2 Special Education - CalEdFacts, California Department of Education, www.cde.ca.gov/sp/se/sr/cefspeced.asp
IDEA Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, Department of Education, sites.ed.gov/idea/about-idea/

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