Call to Action: New Bill Encourages Schools to Create More Inclusive Environment

A new bill sponsored by the Santa Clara County Office of Education — known as SB 692, or the Special Education Inclusion Act — is encouraging schools to create more inclusive environments. According to Senator Dave Cortese (D-CA), who introduced the bill, by adding the existing least-restrictive environment (LRE) target to the California School Dashboard, districts will be held accountable for LRE and discouraged from placing students with disabilities into segregated classrooms

A silhouette of an adult in profile speaking into a megaphone

We spoke with Karen Ford Cull, a Cal-TASH board member, who explained the bill to us. 

  • The bill makes four changes to existing law:
  1. It adds the Federal State Performance Indicator 5a (the percentage of students with disabilities who spend 80% of more of their day in a general education classroom) to the state’s list of priorities in the local control and accountability plan (LCAP), a three-year plan that describes the goals, actions, services, and expenditures to support positive student outcomes that address state and local priorities.
     
  2. It compels the state to include the LRE measure on the California Schools Dashboard, which assigns a color based on the level of the score and on improvement/regression, encouraging schools to strive for improvement
     
  3. It requires that the county invite special education local plan areas (SELPAs), which provide special education and related services to students with disabilities, to technical assistance meetings that are required when a district is not meeting its Dashboard target in the LRE area.
     
  4. It instructs the State Superintendent to conduct a survey of what’s needed to prepare teachers for more inclusion
  • Cull explains that under IDEA, each state has to write a seven-year performance plan that details how they are improving special education in seventeen target areas. Indicator 5 is the LRE, which is measured by the percentage of students with disabilities who spend a percentage of their school day in a general education classroom. This data is collected for each school by the California Department of Education and displayed online. 
     
  • Adding this data to the California School Dashboard provides more accountability, as parents and educators use it to make decisions to improve student learning. There are currently two separate systems of accountability (one for general education and one for special education), and adding the LRE measure to the Dashboard bridges these two systems, Cull says. 
     
  • Every three years, the district has to write an LCAP, which is reviewed annually by local stakeholders, including teachers’ unions and a committee of parents. If the bill is passed, the district will have to talk about how to increase inclusion at these meetings, and parents, teachers, and staff will have opportunities to talk to local policymakers and be heard. 
     
  • Advocacy groups like Cal-TASH support the bill because of the opportunities it will provide parents to advocate for inclusion in their districts. While separate special education classrooms are still the norm in many districts across the state, this bill aims to push district administrators to seek out inclusive practices and empower parents to advocate for support. 
     
  • The Deaf and Hard of Hearing community is against the bill, as they believe it could take students out of sign-language-supported schools and into “mainstream” classes, depriving them of their visual language environment. 
     
  • If you’d like to support this bill, write to your representatives (listed below), or call into the hearing on April 14th to express your support.
     

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