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California Department of Education
Official Letter
California Department of Education
Official Letter
August 19, 2022

Dear County and District Superintendents, Special Education Local Plan Area Directors, Special Education Administrators at County Offices, Special Education Program Directors, Charter School Administrators, and Nonpublic School Directors:

Assembly Bill 181: Special Education and Independent Study

On June 30, 2022, Governor Newsom signed Assembly Bill (AB) 181 (Chapter 52, Statutes of 2022), an education omnibus trailer bill.  The purpose of this notice is to outline some notable changes related to special education and independent study enacted within AB 181. 

Special Education and Independent Study

AB 181, Section 73 amends Section 51745 of the California Education Code (EC) to add specific guidance for individual education program teams to consider in determining whether independent study is appropriate for individuals with exceptional needs.  AB 181, Section 109 (uncodified section), contains the following Legislative intent language regarding these changes to Section 51745: 

The Legislature finds and declares that the amendments to Section 51745 of the Education Code, made by Section 73 of this act, are intended to clarify the legal requirements for local educational agencies for serving individuals with exceptional needs, as defined in Section 56026 of the Education Code, when offering independent study. The COVID-19 pandemic has caused significant disruption to many aspects of the state’s public education system and to the experience of pupils and families. The implementation of independent study programs under Assembly Bill 130 (Chapter 44 of the Statutes of 2021), to support the return to in-person learning in the 2021–22 school year, in particular at the start of the school year, highlighted several areas where additional clarity in the law would benefit local educational agencies, pupils, and families.

AB 181, Section 73 amends subsection (c) of Section 51745 of the California Education Code (EC) to elaborate on considerations for participation of an individual with exceptional needs in an independent study program. Local educational agencies may offer independent study to meet the educational needs of students, including students with exceptional needs as determined appropriate by the individualized education program (IEP) Team.  Specifically, AB 181 amends EC 51745(c) to state that:

An individual with exceptional needs, as defined in Section 56026, may participate in independent study, if the pupil’s individualized education program developed pursuant to Article 3 (commencing with Section 56340) of Chapter 4 of Part 30 specifically provides for that participation. If a parent or guardian of an individual with exceptional needs requests independent study pursuant to paragraph (5) of subdivision (a), the pupil’s individualized education program team shall make an individualized determination as to whether the pupil can receive a free appropriate public education in an independent study placement. A pupil’s inability to work independently, the pupil’s need for adult support, or the pupil’s need for special education or related services shall not preclude the individualized education program team from determining that the pupil can receive a free appropriate education in an independent study placement.

AB 181, Section 73 removed language in subsection (a)(3) of Education Code 51745, which provided that one of the educational opportunities available through independent study may include, “(3) Individualized alternative education designed to teach the knowledge and skills of the core curriculum. Independent study shall not be provided as an alternative curriculum.” 

Nonpublic Schools and Independent Study

AB 181, Section 110 (uncodified section) addresses the provision of independent study at nonpublic schools. It allows school districts to claim apportionment for individuals with exceptional needs placed in nonpublic schools who are receiving independent study subject to specific criteria.  Specifically, Section 110 states:

SEC. 110. (a) A local educational agency may claim apportionment for a pupil who receives services from a nonpublic, nonsectarian school as defined in Section 56034 of the Education Code through a virtual program if all of the following conditions are met:

(1) The pupil is an individual with exceptional needs, as defined in Section 56026 of the Education Code, whose individualized education program includes a placement at a nonpublic, nonsectarian school pursuant to Sections 56365 and 56366 of the Education Code.

(2) The local educational agency offers independent study pursuant to paragraph (5) of subdivision (a) of Section 51745 of the Education Code.

(3) The pupil’s parent or guardian requests independent study pursuant to paragraph (5) of subdivision (a) of Section 51745 of the Education Code.

(4) The pupil’s individualized education program team determines that a free appropriate public education can be provided by a virtual program in the nonpublic, school placement.

(5) The virtual program provided by the nonpublic, nonsectarian school includes procedures for tiered reengagement strategies for all pupils who are not generating attendance for more than three schooldays or 60 percent of the instructional days in a school week, or 10 percent of required minimum instructional time over four continuous weeks of a local educational agency’s approved instructional calendar, or pupils who do not participate in scheduled live interaction or synchronous instruction for more than the greater of three schooldays or 60 percent of the scheduled days of synchronous instruction in a school month as applicable by grade span.

(b) A local educational agency may claim apportionment credit for a virtual program at a nonpublic, nonsectarian school as described in subdivision (a) only to the extent of the time value of pupil work products, as personally judged in each instance by a certificated teacher employed by the nonpublic, nonsectarian school.

(c) To ensure the authorization of services provided under this section does not undermine the entitlement of individuals with exceptional needs to a free appropriate public education, this section shall become inoperative on July 1, 2024, and on January 1, 2025, is repealed.

LEAs are encouraged to carefully review AB 181 in order to plan for services to students with disabilities in the upcoming school year, as appropriate. 

Should there be any questions related to the above information, please contact the Special Education Division via email at SEDINFO@cde.ca.gov or the appropriate Focused Monitoring and Technical Assistance (FMTA) Consultant using the contact information provided on the CDE FMTA Consultant Assignments by Region web page at https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/se/qa/fmtacncnt.asp.

Sincerely,

Heather Calomese, Director
Special Education Division

Last Reviewed: Tuesday, August 23, 2022

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