Skip to main content
California Department of Education Logo

Size And Scope

Special Education Local Plan Area size and scope standards as adopted by the State Board of Education at the November 17-18, 1983 meeting pursuant to California Education Code Section 56100(c).

Special Education Local Plan Area Formation

The governing board of a district must elect to participate in a special education local plan area (SELPA) in one of three ways. As a,

  1. Single local educational agency (LEA) SELPA: Includes only one district local educational agency (LEA). This selection does not include a county office of education (COE); or
  2. Multiple LEA SELPA: Includes one district or charter LEA together with one or more additional district or charter LEA(s), or a combination thereof. This selection does not include a COE; or
  3. COE Joined SELPA: A district (or charter) LEA(s) joined with a COE(s) to form a SELPA. This selection includes one or more district or charter LEA(s) AND one or more COEs.

COE Review and Submission to the California Department of Education

All proposed Local Plans, must be submitted to the COE(s) for review. A COE must approve or disapprove a proposed SELPA Local Plan. If approved, the COE must submit the Local Plan to the California Department of Education (CDE) with comments and recommendations. (Education Code Section 56140[b])

If approved, a SELPA must:

  1. Cooperate with the COE(s) and other LEA in the geographic areas in planning its option under EC Section 56195.1. Each fiscal year, a SELPA must notify the CDE, impacted SELPAs, and participating COEs of its intent to elect an alternative option from those specified in Section 56195.1, at least one year before the proposed effective date of the implementation of the alternative plan.
  2. Cooperate with the COE(s) to assure that the Local Plan is compatible with other Local Plans in the county, including the local control and accountability plans adopted for the LEA and the COE, and any county plan of a contiguous county.

From July 1, 2020, to July 1, 2024, inclusive, the governing board of a district must not submit a Local Plan for the purpose of creating a Single LEA SELPA. (EC Section 56195.1[a][2])

State Board of Education Size and Scope Standards

The following State Board of Education (SBE) standards (adopted by the SBE on November 17-18, 1983 meeting) must be used by LEAs to determine if the educational entity is of sufficient size and scope to qualify as a SELPA ).

In addition to being of sufficient size and scope to qualify as a SELPA, the SELPA shall cooperate with the COE(s) and other LEAs in the geographic area in order to assure that the SELPA is compatible with other SELPAs in the county, as required by EC Section 56195.3.

A region may not become a SELPA without approval of the SELPA by the COE(s) or a decision of the SBE to overrule the disapproval of the COE(s), pursuant to EC Section 56140.

Metropolitan Areas

A metropolitan area is defined as an area that has a student population density of 200 or more per square mile. Population density is computed by dividing total number of K-12 students in the SELPA by the square miles to determine number of students per square mile. All SELPAs in metropolitan areas must have comprehensive special education programs. COEs may allow a minimum of contract services for low-incidence programs with justification, in addition to utilizing State Special School programs for students with low-incidence sensory needs.


A single district must have kindergarten through 12 grades and 30,000 or more students.

Multiple LEA SELPAs or COE Joined SELPAs

Method One:

  • Kindergarten through 12th grade
  • 30,000 or more students
  • No more than 15 miles from border to border of the SELPA at the longest distance

Method Two:

  • Kindergarten through 12th grade
  • 25,000 to 30,000 students
  • No more than 20 miles from border to border of the SELPA at the longest distance

Method Three:

  • Kindergarten through 12th grade
  • 20,000 to 25,000 students
  • No more than 30 miles from border to border of the SELPA at the longest distance

Non-Metropolitan Areas

Population density of less than 200 students per square mile.


In a non-metropolitan area, a single-district plan shall have:

  • 15,000 or more students
  • A comprehensive special education program
  • Contracting may be allowed, with justification, for programs serving students with low-incidence sensory needs

Multiple LEA, or COE Joined SELPAs

Must have a comprehensive special education program.

  • Contracting is allowed, with justification, for programs serving students with low-incidence disabilities in addition to utilizing State Special School programs for serving students who are identified with sensory needs.


All contracts for low-incidence programs must include a clause that neither party may cancel the contract without a 12-month notice or upon mutual agreement of all parties to the contract.

Note: While the SBE-adopted standards specifically address kindergarten through twelve grades, it is important to note that SELPAs are responsible for planning and coordinating services for all students with exceptional needs, from birth to twenty-two years of age.

Questions: FMTA V | | 916-323-2409 
Last Reviewed: Wednesday, October 6, 2021
Recently Posted in Special Education
  • Cyclical Monitoring for Small LEAs (updated 26-Sep-2022)
    This is the home page for local educational agencies (LEAs) that have been selected for Special Education Cyclical Monitoring.
  • Workability I Grant Conditions Guidance (added 20-Sep-2022)
    Guidance for the 2022-23 Workability Grant Conditions
  • FMTA Consultant Assignments by Region (updated 16-Sep-2022)
    The Focused Monitoring and Technical Assistance (FMTA) Consultants are assigned geographically and by quality assurance activity to align with the eleven California County Superintendents Educational Services Association (CCSESA) regions.
  • Memorandum from the Director of Special Education (added 15-Sep-2022)
    This memorandum is intended to provide guidance on special education assessment of African American students for identification and placement and the Larry P. court decision.
  • Annual Performance Report Measures (updated 02-Sep-2022)
    Short summaries of special education program and student outcome data for California local educational agencies (LEAs).