With new findings coming out of the California Department of Education, the state is clearly failing to provide good instruction to special education students.

The Cabinet Report revealed yesterday that special education students in California rank near the bottom in reading and math proficiency compared to other states. California also scores low in special education funding.

During last year's campaign season, Governor Jerry Brown promised to provide more funding for cash-starved public education systems through Proposition 30, which voters approved and raised state income and sales taxes. Will Brown now follow through and be sure woefully under-performing special education students get their slice of the fiscal pie?

The new findings reported that only 24 percent of special education students in California scored “basic or better” in 4th and 8th grade reading and math testing. As a result, California ranks a lowly 48 out of 50 states.

The national average for special education students is 38 percent proficiency.

The Cabinet Report adds, “Perhaps also not a surprise, California's spending per capita [on special education students] also appears to be among the lowest in the nation.”

Unlike rival Proposition 38, which was shot down by voters in November and pushed by wealthy Pasadena civil rights lawyer Molly Munger, Proposition 30 does not guarantee ample tax monies for education or special education. Governor Jerry Brown and the state legislature have the final say of how Prop. 30 money will be spent.

But with a recent report by the American Institutes for Research (AIR), which conducted its study at the request of the state, Brown and the state legislature certainly have some guideposts.

AIR suggests that the state needs to improve special education expenditure and revenue data to get a better understanding of how money is being used, and that “California's investment in and return from special education appears relatively low.”

In other words, a major overhaul in the way California serves special education students needs to take place.

Patrick Range McDonald at pmcdonald@laweekly.com.

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