The Governance of SELPAs

Scales and gavel on top of legal books

Special Education Local Plan Areas (SELPAs) are the regional structure created in California state law for the assurance of the provision of special education and related services to students with disabilities in California. California is one of only a few states in the nation that utilizes intermediary agencies in the provision of special education, and is the only state in the nation that legally requires the formation and maintenance of SELPAs. By federal regulations, SELPAs are considered educational service agencies (ESAs) and serve as California’s sub-grantees under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). These regionalized entities carry out a variety of mandated fiscal and educational responsibilities and develop systems and procedures for ensuring that eligible students with disabilities (SWDs) receive the special education and related services to which they are entitled. [Source:  CDE Memo to SBE, "Special Education Local Plan Areas - History and Requirements," March 27, 2019.]  The SELPA Governing Board is comprised of the superintendent(s) or their designees of each member local education agency who is part of the geographical or legal structure described in the SELPA Local Plan. 

Except in the case of single district SELPAs, which contain only one Local Education Agency (LEA), the LEAs within each SELPA designate one LEA as the Responsible Local Agency (RLA), or Administrative Unit (AU) of the SELPA, and join together pursuant to Education Code Section 56195 to adopt a plan in accordance with Education Code Section 56200 to assure equal access to special education and services for all eligible persons with disabilities residing in the geographic area served by these agencies. In adopting the Local Plan, each participating agency agrees to carry out the duties and responsibilities assigned to it within the plan. Participating agencies may enter into additional contractual arrangements to meet the requirements of applicable federal and state laws. [EC 56195; 56195.1(c); 56195.5(a); 56195.5(b); 56205(a) (12) (D)]. The Responsible Local Agency (RLA) or Administrative Unit (AU) for the SELPA performs the following functions.

  • The AU is designated to receive and distribute special education funds according to the locally approved Special Education Budget Allocation Plan.
  • The AU employs staff necessary to support SELPA functions.
  • The AU oversees the coordination of the Local Plan.

Man smiling in a team meetingIn adopting the SELPA Local Plan, each participating LEA agrees to carry out the duties and responsibilities assigned to it within the plan. Each district, in a single district SELPA, and each district's governing board and the County Office of Education, in a multi-district SELPA, shall have authority over the programs it directly maintains consistent with the local plan. Centralized Programs and Services operated on behalf of the SELPA are subject to oversight by the SELPA Governing Board according to SELPA policies and procedures. 

Each agency provides special education and services to all eligible students within its boundaries, including students attending charter schools where an LEA of the SELPA has granted that charter. Charter schools with LEA status in the SELPA are responsible for special education services according to the provisions of the SELPA’s policy. In addition, each agency cooperates to the maximum extent possible with other agencies to serve individuals with disabilities who cannot be served in the LEA of residence program. Such cooperation ensures that a range of program options is available throughout a geographical area. The county office or district governing boards may enter into agreements to provide service to pupils in special education programs maintained by other districts or counties and may include within their special education programs pupils residing in other districts or counties.

Some of the responsibilities of the governing boards of each member school or district include, but are not limited to:

  • Approving the Local Plan and revisions to the Local Plan for the SELPA.
  • Participating in the governance of the SELPA by empowering their superintendent or designee to act as their agent in the approval and amendment of policies and procedures.
  • Ensuring compliance with all elements of the Local Plan.
  • Cooperating with the governing boards of participating Local Education Agencies to assure the availability of appropriate services to eligible individuals regardless of district of residence.
  • Operating local programs consistent with state and federal law and regulations and policies and procedures approved for the Special Education Local Plan Area. [EC56195.5(a)]
  • Develop and adopt policies for the operation of the Local Education Agency, which are consistent with those of the Special Education Local Plan Area, and which promote the concept of ensuring access to appropriate programs and services for all children with disabilities.
  • Appoint members to the Community Advisory Committee made up of parent representatives from each Local Education Agency.

The SELPA and member local education agencies (LEAs) foster coordination between general and special education for prevention and early intervention of suspected disabilities. The SELPA also ensures appropriate education services for individuals with disabilities by working cooperatively with other public and private agencies to support a full complement of special education services for students. 

Costs for SELPA operations and the Administrative Unit are provided by funding from the state, which may be augmented by local, federal, and state funds. Each region determines the funds available for regionalized services and the responsibilities of the SELPA office. Each SELPA Governing Board has adopted policies for dispute resolution among its LEAs and between an LEA and the SELPA in the event of disagreements. The SELPA policy-making body is designated in the Local Plan to make policy decisions, approve the SELPA budget and Allocation Plan, and direct SELPA operations. Some SELPA responsibilities include, but are not limited to, oversight of the following areas:

  • Ensuring program availability for all children with disabilities
  • Governance committees, including the Community Advisory Committee
  • Assistance with understanding compliance requirements
  • Transition planning
  • Program coordination
  • Fiscal management, and budget planning and review
  • Staff development
  • Curriculum development and support
  • Special education data reporting to the State
  • Regionalized services and program specialists
  • Interagency coordination
  • Program evaluation
  • Community awareness