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Office of Special Education

About the Office of Special Education

This office administers both the state's Exceptional Children's Educational Act (ECEA) and the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) for children with disabilities. This website is a resource for teachers, administrators, and parents of students with exceptional educational needs due to disability, or learners who are culturally and/or linguistically diverse or have some other special need. The Office of Special Education is one of three offices within the Exceptional Student Services Unit (along with the Office of Facility Schools and the Office of Gifted Education).

Colorado's IDEA Part B Application for FFY 2024

The Colorado Department of Education is making available for public review and comment the following proposed document: The State of Colorado’s Part B Application for grant funding under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) for Federal Fiscal Year (FFY) 2024 (which funds SFY 2025).  Hard copies of the document may be downloaded and printed from the link below.  Public comments will be accepted until 5:00 pm on May 22, 2024.  Send comments to Vicki Graham by email at

Prior Approval

If your AU is planning a purchase of $5,000 or more (eg. Buses, Software, Construction), or if the purchase exceeds your district’s local policy regarding capital thresholds, you must receive prior approval from CDE if the AU is using IDEA Part B Funds or ARP-IDEA Funds. Any single item purchase that exceeds $5000, or exceeds your district’s local policy regarding capital thresholds, must receive prior approval from the CDE. 

  1. Any single item purchase that exceeds $5000, or exceeds your district’s local policy regarding capital thresholds, must receive prior approval from the CDE. 
  2. Once the AU has completed its prior approval request it should be uploaded to the DMS under the Fiscal Tab.  Please email Kathryn Hunt to advise her that the request has been uploaded.  
    1. Note that the DMS does not generate notifications to CDE staff when a new item has been uploaded.  The AU should follow up via email to ensure a timely review of the request.
  3. If the AU does not already have approval for the appropriate Objective and/or Activity in their most current narrative, for any single item expenditures over $5000, the AU will need to ensure it has addressed Objective 5, Activity 1. The AU must amend both its Federal Application Narrative and its Federal Budget to account for the new activity.  For a single item expenditure of less than $5000, the AU will need to address Objective 5, Activity 2 but it does not need to seek prior approval from the CDE. The AU must provide an evaluation for the new activity.
  4. The AU must amend both its narrative and budget before any expenditures.  These amendments may occur during one of the revision windows after the district has received approval of its request. Revision dates may be found at IDEA Fiscal Timelines 22-23 (PDF). 

Stay Up To Date

AU Special Education Director of Record and Fiscal Contact Information

ESSU must have current contact information for all state-level Special Education Directors and Special Education Fiscal Contacts. Our office communicates important updates and information through our listserv, please be sure that we have accurate, updated information. Communications from this listserv will come from CDE_SPED.

ESSU Newsletter

The ESSU e-newsletter is our office's primary form of communication with the field. It is published once a month and contains information from the Office of Gifted and Talented, Office of Facility Schools, and Office of Special Education.

Quick Links

What's New

A Guide to School-Based Mental Health Services and Professionals in Colorado

School-Based Mental Health Professionals are crucial in providing social, emotional, behavioral, and mental health support to students and staff. The Guide to School-Based Mental Health Services and Professionals in Colorado offers insights into these professionals' roles, importance, and interactions with students.

View or download a copy of the Guide to School-Based Mental Health Services and Professionals in Colorado (PDF) 

(Posted April 26, 2024)

Proposed Changes to ECEA Rules

On March 14th, the State Board of Education approved the public notice of rulemaking for updates to the Exceptional Children’s Educational Act regarding services in facility schools. Senate Bill 23-219 directed CDE to analyze and recommend changes to calculating tuition costs for facility schools and changed the state funding model for approved facility schools. Additionally, HB 23-1089 required an amendment to the definition of an administrative unit of residence.  The State Board of Education will conduct a hearing regarding the proposed rules during its regularly scheduled meeting on May 8, 2024

CDE is currently accepting public comment on the proposed rules. Please click here to review the proposed rules.  Individuals interested in providing comments can do so by clicking here.

Multilingual Learners and students who are Newcomers

Students who are Newcomers Guidance

Newcomers are entitled to school enrollment and equal access to educational programming. This Fact Sheet clarifies the special education process as it relates to Newcomers who are Multilingual Learners identified with or suspected of having disabilities.  Administrative Units must evaluate students who are Newcomers without delay if they are suspected of having disabilities. This evaluation must be non-discriminatory. 

ML Enrollment Scenarios Flowchart

It is the Administrative Unit's responsibility under Child Find to locate and identify all students with disabilities including Multilingual Learners (MLs) with disabilities.   School teams must not identify MLs with disabilities when linguistic and cultural differences or lack of instruction in literacy and math are the determinative causes for their difficulties in school.  When parents or staff members report concerns about a student's academic, social-emotional, functional, or behavioral concerns, IEP teams including educators who are knowledgeable in language acquisition and acculturation should work to investigate these concerns before the special education evaluation referral.

(Posted March 28, 2024)

HCPF CDE SPED and Nurse Letter

HCPF-CDE-SPED and Nurse Letter 2-12-2024
Please see the attached joint communication from the Department of Health Care Policy and Financing and the Colorado Department of Education. 

COVID-19 and Special Education

Answers to frequently asked questions such as Compensatory Services, Prior Written Notice and Special Education Evaluations can be found in Special Education FAQ's.

CDE's Office of Special Education has gathered resources to help answer questions around the COVID-19 pandemic as it relates to special education.

Supporting Displaced Gifted and Special Education Students

There are many ways that children and families can be displaced. There are floods, fires, and other types of natural disasters that can destroy homes or make them uninhabitable for periods of time. Families can also experience hardships that result in major home life changes.

Ways to Search this Site

  1. You can use the Google Search box (only searches CDE) at the top right side of the webpage and type in what you are looking for.
    CDE GOOGLE Search Bar
  2. You can use our Topic Index - an alphabetical list of topics for the Office of Special Education.

Having trouble with this webpage?


If you have problems with broken links or accessing the content on this page, please contact the Exceptional Student Services Unit at Please copy the URL link for this page into the email when referencing the problem you are experiencing.