Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 prohibit discrimination against individuals on the basis of disability. These statutes and their implementing regulations provide that qualified students with disabilities may not, on the basis of disability, be excluded from participation in or be denied the benefits of the services, programs, or activities of a school district. They also prohibit a school district from providing a student with a disability with an aid, benefit, or service that is not as effective in affording the same opportunity to obtain the same result, gain the same benefit, or reach the same level of achievement as that provided to others. (Ref. 34 C.F.R. 104.4(a) and (b), and 28 C.F.R. 35.130(a) and (b)). It is recommended that districts applying for the Class Size Reduction Program (CSR) review their locally adopted policies and procedures implementing Section 504 and Title II to assure that discriminatory violations do not occur as the result of implementation of CSR.
Under Section 504 and Title II, components of the educational program provided to students with disabilities must be comparable to those provided to students who are not disabled. (Ref. 34 CFR 104.4 and 104.34(c) and 28 CFR 35.130). For example, CSR implementation must not result in students with disabilities receiving an educational program in which facilities, class size, educational resources, and/or instructional staff are not comparable to those provided in the program for students who are not disabled.
Least Restrictive Environment
To the maximum extent appropriate, students with disabilities are to be educated with children who are not disabled. Special classes, separate schooling or other removal of children with disabilities from the general education environment is to occur only when the nature of severity of the disability is such that education in general education classes with the use of supplementary aids and services cannot be achieved satisfactorily. (Ref. 34 C.F.R. 300.114, 34 C.F.R. 104.34, 28 C.F.R. 35.130(d)). Implementation of CSR must not have a negative effect on the integration of students with disabilities with their non-disabled peers to the maximum extent appropriate to the needs of the disabled student.
Continuum of Alternative Placements
School districts are also required to ensure that a continuum of alternative placements are available to meet the needs of students with disabilities for special education and related services. This required continuum includes instruction in general education classes, special classes, special schools, home instruction, and instruction in hospitals and institutions; and/or supplementary services (such as a resource room or itinerant instruction) to be provided in conjunction with regular class placement. (Ref. 34 C.F.R. 300.115)
Under the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), each district shall ensure that the educational placement of each student with a disability is determined at least annually, is based on his or her Individualized Education Program (IEP) and is as close as possible to their home. Various alternative placements are sometimes required to the extent necessary to implement the IEP for each child with a disability. Unless the IEP of a child with a disability requires some other arrangement, the child is educated in the school that he or she would attend if not disabled. In selecting the least restrictive environment, consideration is to be given to any potential harmful effect on the child or on the quality of services that he or she needs. (Ref. 34 C.F.R. 300.116)
Under Section 504 and Title II, students with disabilities must be provided an appropriate education, defined as the provision of regular or special education and related aids and services that are designed to meet the individual needs of disabled students as adequately as the needs of students who are not disabled are met. (Ref. 34 C.F.R. 104.33(a) and (b), 28 C.F.R. 35.103(b)(1)(ii) and (iii)). Implementation of CSR must not interfere with the provision of an individualized, appropriate placement for each student with a disability enrolled in a participating school district, including special education and related aids and services. Facilities, class size, educational resources, and instructional staff assigned to students with disabilities must be appropriate to their individual needs.
Individualized Education Program
Under IDEA, the IEP for each student must include a statement of the specific special education and related services to be provided he/she and the extent that the student will be able to participate in the general education programs. Each public agency must provide special education and related services to a student with a disability in accordance with an IEP. (Ref. 34 C.F.R. 300.320, 300.323)
State law provides that caseloads for Resource Specialists shall not exceed 28 pupils. Resource Specialists shall not simultaneously be assigned to serve as Resource Specialist and to teach regular classes (Ref. Education Code Section 56362(d)). Resource Specialists shall not enroll a pupil for the majority of a school day without prior approval by the IEP team. (Ref. Education Code Section 56362(e))
Under State law, a new building area allowance for special day class and resource specialists program facilities specifies basic needs of students with disabilities, grade levels, pupil loading factors and square footage. There is a "reasonableness" of standards to provide adequate facilities for all students with disabilities, as there is a "reasonableness" and compliance standard requirement for students in kindergarten through grade twelve. The standard for students with disabilities must be comparable to K-6 facilities and must consider the allowances outlined in Title 5, California Code of Regulations, sections 14030(h)(3) and 14036. As noted above, under Section 504 and Title II, facilities assigned to students with disabilities must be comparable to those assigned to students who are not disabled, and must be appropriate to meet the individualized needs of the students with disabilities.
Please note that this subsection applies to the State CSR Program. Pupils receiving special education participate or count in the Class Size Reduction Program in a different manner, depending on a student's IEP and placement as follows:
Resource Specialist Pupils are members of a general education class. As such, they are eligible for the Class Size Reduction Program funding and they must be counted within the 20:1 ratio.
Designated Instruction and Services Pupils usually are members of a general education class and, if so, would be counted as part of the 20:1 and be eligible for Class Size Reduction funding. However, some pupils are not members of a general education class (such as home taught or a full-time member of a special day class) and they may not be counted and are not eligible for Class Size Reduction funding.
Nonpublic School Pupils are not counted and not eligible for funding.
Special Day Class (SDC) Pupils who attend a general education classroom for any part of the day (mainstreaming or inclusion) may or may not be counted as part of the Class Size Reduction Program as determined by local policy. The policy may be to include the SDC pupils in the 20:1 count and receive Class Size Reduction funds, or the policy may be to not include the SDC pupils who attend a general education classroom and not receive funds. Regardless of the policy chosen, it must be applied consistently, and it must be auditable. If a SDC pupil is not counted as part of the CSR Program, that student is still required to attend the general education class, as determined by the student's individual education program (IEP), without jeopardizing the funding received by the district for the 20:1 class in the CSR Program.
Special Day Class Pupils who attend a special day class full-time are not counted in the 20:1 and are not eligible for Class Size Reduction funds. The special day class is not considered for Class Size Reduction Program purposes. However, under Section 504 and Title II, school districts must ensure that SDC students who are not eligible for CSR funding are not denied the benefits of this program. For example, if a school district has reduced the size of its first grade classes under CSR, a SDC enrolling first graders should not have a larger class size, even though it is not eligible for CSR funding. In addition to considerations of comparability, the school district should also consider whether the first grade SDC should enroll even fewer students than general education first grade classes, if necessary to meet the individualized needs of the disabled students.