A legal battle that has endured nearly twenty years regarding California’s oversight of special education in the state appears close to resolution.
Ed Source, the nonprofit organization that reports on key education issues in California revealed last week that the state has agreed to comply with a federal court order calling for significant changes in the system currently used to monitor special education.
According to the report, the California Department of Education (Department) has agreed to end its legal challenges and follow the corrective action plan for special education monitoring issued by the U.S. District Court of Northern California in San Francisco in 2014.
Earlier this month, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals issued an order that upheld an earlier decision requiring the state to comply with the district court order and follow the corrective action plan. The state had requested the rehearing after it lost its appeal to overturn the order. The next legal recourse would be an appeal to the high court, however, the Department has rejected that option.
The state’s acquiescence will finally bring to conclusion a 1996 class action lawsuit, Emma C. et al. v. Delaine Eastin et al., that led to the corrective action plan.
William Koski, an attorney from Stanford Law School’s Youth & Education Law Project and one of the legal agencies that advocated on the students’ behalf welcomed the news. “The California Department of Education must now comply with the corrective action plan and reform its dysfunctional state-level monitoring system,” he stressed. The corrective action plan mandates reforms to the design of California’s state-level monitoring system.
In 2015, a report by the Statewide Special Education Task Force showed achievement levels for students with disabilities in California are among the lowest in the nation. As a result, changes are also underway in credentialing requirements for special education and general education teachers. This is part of a strategy to bring all students into a unified teaching and administrative system aimed at improving overall educational outcomes.