Special Education Local Plan Area
Significant changes have occurred in services and programs provided for children with exceptional needs in the public schools of California. These changes have stemmed from new laws and regulations at both the state and national levels, as well as the spirit of fairness, balance and equity that characterize the public school system. New interpretations of existing laws by courts have further modified and expanded the services required for exceptional students.
Previously, children with disabilities were identified only if their needs were obvious. Then, they tended to be placed into programs designed to serve children with similar disabilities in special schools or areas. Such programs were usually effective in providing specialized services for the populations that they served; but in many cases, expectations may not have been appropriate in relation to the student’s actual potential.
Gradually the community and public agencies have become aware that children with disabilities can be educated with their non-disabled peers, assuring equal opportunities for all children. This required the sharing of program resources, including transportation, through regional cooperation among public and non-public schools and non-educational agencies.
In the early 1970's a movement across the country resulted in the passage of important federal and state laws. The federal laws were PL 93-112 and PL 94-142. In 1987, PL 99 457 was passed which expanded services to preschool children. In response to the laws, legislation was passed in California which provides the legal foundation for a comprehensive plan in special education and requires local districts and agencies to establish Special Education Local Plan Areas (SELPAs) to address the needs of all children with disabilities.
Today there are approximately 118 SELPAs in the state ranging in size from those serving fewer than 1,000 students to those serving more than 10,000 students. (A few have up to 50,000 and only five SELPAs have over 10,000). Most commonly, SELPAs serve between 2,000 and 4,000 students.
SELPAs vary in their structure. There are single district SELPAs and SELPAs with multiple districts, in addition to several other forms that may be developed. Each SELPA must have an Administrative Unit. The Administrative Unit is the legal entity that receives funds and is responsible for seeing that every eligible child receives appropriate services. Cost for the Administrative Unit are provided by special funding from the state.
The SELPA policy-making body is designated in the Local Plan and makes policy decisions, approves the guidelines for other decisions. In addition, there are usually advisory groups that work with the Director and the governing body. The chief administrator of the SELPA is usually called a Director.
Responsibilities of the SELPA include such things as:
All SELPAs have the same basic goal. . . to deliver high quality special education programs and services to the students with disabilities in the most effective, efficient, and cost effective manner practicable.