School Choice & Charters

Some Charter Schools Make Students With Disabilities Their Mission

By Christina A. Samuels — September 17, 2014 1 min read
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Charter schools have a reputation for enrolling students with disabilities at a far lower rate than traditional school districts. But some charter schools see these students as a potential growth market.

My colleague Arianna Prothero, who covers charter schools, this week explored the world of charter schools created to support students with autism, learning disabilities, and other special needs. From the article:

There are few data on exactly how many of these special education-focused charter schools exist. A tally by the Center for Education Reform, a Washington-based research and advocacy group, counted around 100 such charters in the 2012 school year. Some of those independently operated public schools, like the Arizona Autism Charter School, are disability-specific; others, like the Washington-based Bridges Public Charter School, serve children with a range of disabilities as well as their typically developing peers. Although the number of special-needs charters is small compared to the more than 6,000 charter schools operating nationally, several experts in the charter and special education sectors predict such schools will gain in popularity because they offer a tuition-free option for parents seeking specialized programs.

Such schools also raise questions about the inclusive environment that is promised to students with disabilities under federal law. The article explores what the role of such schools can be when students are supposed to be educated in the “least restrictive environment,” and how they maintain their enrollment balance when charter schools are supposed to be open to the general student population.

I’m curious to know what readers’ experiences have been with such charter schools. Have they been successful in providing the special services you were hoping for?

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A version of this news article first appeared in the On Special Education blog.