California’s Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO) has issued a report revealing that public spending on special education students in California has risen by more than 20 percent during the past 10 years, from $10.8 billion to $13 billion. One out of every eight students in California’s public school system now requires special education services, with the majority of those students struggling with learning disabilities and autism.1 2
The nonpartisan LAO, which provides fiscal and policy advice to the state legislature stated in its new report, Overview of Special Education in California, that “In 2017‑18, 12.5 percent of California public school students received special education—an increase from 10.8 percent in the early 2000s.” While the majority of these students with disabilities have “relatively mild conditions such as speech impairments and specific learning disorders (such as dyslexia),” the number of students with “relatively severe disabilities” has doubled since 2000-01. The LAO report notes that the incidence of autism among California’s special education students has grown significantly, affecting one in 50 students in 2017-18, compared to one in 600 students in 1997-98.1 2
“No One Can Say Exactly Why It’s Happening”
In an article for EdSource, Louis Freedberg observed, “The Legislative Analyst’s report underscored the extraordinary financial pressures on local school districts to educate students with disabilities.” Freedberg pointed out that the cost of providing an education to a student with special needs is nearly three times as much as for “general education” student—$26,000 versus $9,000.2
The growing, but as yet unexplained, trend in California that many more students require special education services is “undeniable,” wrote Michael Finch in an article in The Sacramento Bee earlier this year. “[N]o one can say exactly why it’s happening.”3
In an article for The Vaccine Reaction titled, “The Growing Number of Special Education Students in America,” TVR staff writer Rishma Parpia highlighted that what California is experiencing with the increased demand for special education is a nationwide phenomenon.4
Since 1997 NVIC Has Publicly Questioned the Child Vaccine Schedule
For more than two decades, the National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC) has publicly questioned whether there is an association between increases in the numbers of vaccinations given to children since the early 1980s and the growing epidemic of chronic disease and disability among U.S. children.5 6 In 1983, the childhood vaccine schedule recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) directed pediatricians to give children 23 doses of seven vaccines between the ages of two months and six years old.7
95 Percent National Vaccination Rate in US Since 1981 as CA and Two Other States Eliminate Vaccine Exemptions in 2019
The national vaccination rate with core vaccines (such as diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, measles, mumps, rubella, polio) among U.S. children entering kindergarten has been about 95 percent since 1981.8 9 Despite strong public opposition, in 2015 the California legislature eliminated the personal belief exemption to vaccination for school children.10 After thousands of California residents attending hearings and protested in front of the state Capitol in Sacramento this year, the legislature eliminated medical vaccine exemptions that do not strictly conform with CDC approved vaccine contraindications.11 12 13
Along with Mississippi and West Virginia that do not allow religious, philosophical or conscientious belief exemptions to vaccination for children to attend daycare or school, California has one of the most highly vaccinated child populations in the United States.14 15 This year, there were bills introduced in 17 states that proposed to eliminate vaccine exemptions, but only two state legislatures voted to join California, Mississippi and West Virginia in a “no exceptions” approach to vaccination laws.16
In 2019, the Maine legislature narrowly voted to eliminate the religious and philosophical belief vaccine exemptions and the New York legislature removed the religious vaccine exemption in one day with no public hearings.17 18 Within weeks of the New York state legislature eliminating the religious vaccine exemption, the New York state health department eliminated all medical vaccine exemptions that do not strictly conform with CDC approved vaccine contraindications.19 Disabled children, many of them already vaccine injured and dependent upon special education services are being denied entrance to New York schools unless they receive all federally recommended and state mandated vaccines according to the CDC’s childhood vaccination schedule.20
2 Freedberg L. California California spending over $13 billion annually on special education. EdSource Nov. 8, 2019.
3 Finch M. Special education enrollment in California is up. No one can say exactly why. The Sacramento Bee Jan. 21, 2019.
4 Parpia R. The Growing Number of Special Education Students in America. The Vaccine Reaction Feb. 14, 2019.
5 Debate between Barbara Loe Fisher and Neal Halsey, MD on Fisher BL on Mandatory Vaccinations and Child Health. NBC Today Show March 1997.
6 Fisher BL. Statement on Assessment of Studies of Health Outcomes Related to the Recommended Childhood Immunization Schedule. Institute of Medicine Public Workshop Feb. 9, 2012.
7 CDC. Recommended Immunization Schedule for Persons Aged 0 Through 18 Years – United States, 2012. Am J Transplantation Apr. 26, 2012.
8 Hinman A, Orenstein WA, Schuchat A.Vaccine Preventable Diseases, Immunization and MMWR 1961-2011. MMWR Oct. 7, 2011; 60(04): 49-57.
9 CDC. Vaccination Coverage with Selected Vaccines and Exemption Rates Among Children in Kindergarten — United States, 2018–19 School Year. MMWR Oct. 18, 2019; 68(41): 905-912.
10 Richardson D. The Fallout from California SB276: What Happens Next? NVIC Newsletter Aug. 5, 2015.
11 Aguilera E. Five things to know now about California’s new vaccine law. Cal Matters Sept. 15, 2019.
12 Grimes K. California Bill to Restrict Vaccine Medical Exemptions Passes: ‘SB 714 is Going to Be a Mockery of Democracy’. The Vaccine Reaction Sept. 10, 2019.
13 Fisher BL. The Disappearing Medical Exemption to Vaccination. NVIC Newsletter Sept. 17, 2019.
14 National Conference of State Legislatures. States With Religious and Philosophical Exemptions From School Immunization Requirements. NCSL.org June 14, 2019.
15 National Vaccine Information Center. State Law & Vaccine Requirements. NVIC.org.
16 NVIC Advocacy Team. NVIC’s 2019 Annual Report on State Vaccine Legislation. National Vaccine Information Center Sept. 25, 2019.
17 National Vaccine Information Center. New York Bill Removing Religious Exemption to Vaccination Turned Into Law on One Day with No Public Hearings. The Vaccine Reaction June 14, 2019.
18 Fisher BL, Cáceres M. Judge Denies Injunction of NY Law Repealing Religious Vaccine Exemption. The Vaccine Reaction Aug. 28, 2019.
19 Associated Press. NYS issues stricter rules for vaccine medical exemptions. WBFO 88.7 Aug. 17, 2019.
20 TVR Staff. Disabled Child Denied Medical Vaccine Exemption Kicked Out of NY School. The Vaccine Reaction Oct. 10, 2019.