New Tool To Guide Special Ed Policy

NCSECS is excited to announce publication of the Model Policy Guide: Leveraging Policy to Increase Access and Quality Opportunities for Students with Disabilities in Charter Schools. This resource is designed to provide policy makers, legislators, and educational leaders with information, context, and model language from which to draw in developing strong statutory and regulatory provisions relating to serving students with disabilities in charter schools. We address a range of issues that significantly impact the ability of charter schools to provide effective and equitable special education offerings.

Federal statutes establish specific rights and responsibilities that shape how students with disabilities are educated in all public schools. Within these parameters, state charter school laws include provisions that define the legal identity of charter schools within the broader public school system, and shape the extent of a charter school’s responsibility for the provision of special education and related services. However, the specificity of these statutes varies considerably from state to state, as does the manner in which they are operationalized by individual authorizers. This guide outlines specific language intended to inform state charter school policy development that we propose will help states establish environments in which charter schools can successfully educate students with disabilities, and will ideally accelerate development and adoption of innovative practices.

It is our vision that states interested in strengthening their charter legislation and/or regulations and their support for students with disabilities in charter schools will adopt and adapt one or more passages from the Model Policy Guide into their existing statutes or regulations. In developing this resource, our goal is to help charter schools embrace their responsibilities to provide high quality special education and related services. The guide outlines language that supports this goal in a way that is both nuanced and reflective of best practices developed over the first 25 years of charter schooling.
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Interested in learning more about the Model Policy Guide? Join us for an interactive webinar with lead author and NCSECS Co-Founder Paul O’Neill at 2pm EST on May 9, 2017. Click here to register. 

Finding the Right Fit for Students with Disabilities - Complicated but Critical to Charter School Sustainability

Education Next recently published an article by NCSECS Executive Director, Lauren Morando Rhim emphasizing the importance of disseminating accurate information regarding the responsibilities of charter schools to serve students with disabilities. The article was in response to an earlier one by Laura Waters and highlighted some misperceptions that were included in her discussion of the complex issues involved with students with disabilities exercising school choice. 

"Providing a free and appropriate public education to students with disabilities in the least restrictive environment suitable for their unique needs is complicated for all schools. However, as state legislatures and the Trump administration look to grow school choice, we must commit to ensuring that increases in choice do not lead to decreases in access to quality schools for, or greater segregation of, students with disabilities. Absent this commitment, choice is neither scalable nor sustainable." 

Supreme Court Establishes a New Standard for Educational Benefit

By: Paul O'Neill

Yesterday, the Supreme Court of the United States issued a unanimous 8-0 ruling in the landmark Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District case. The amicus brief we submitted in partnership with the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools can be found here. Writing for the Court, Chief Justice Roberts stated that, “[t]o meet its substantive obligation under IDEA, a school must offer an IEP [Individual Education Program] reasonably calculated to enable a child to make progress appropriate in light of the child’s circumstances.”

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Skinny Budget Released: Long on Cuts and Short on Details

By: Lauren Morando Rhim 

The President released his “skinny budget” this morning and it proposes significant cuts to important programs across nearly every government agency. The budget for the Department of Education outlines proposed cuts of $9 billion—13% of the Department’s total budget—most notably to programs designed to bolster the quality of teachers across the country and after-school programs. While the increase in funds devoted to encouraging school choice—$1.4 billion to creating new charter schools and voucher programs and $1 billion in portable funds—may create opportunities, both critics and champions of school choice can agree on the critical importance of ensuring that such investments simultaneously balance equity and quality with quantity.  Of particular concern is ensuring that any investments in choice contain assurances that the rights of students with disabilities are preserved.

The federal Charter School Program of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act has been instrumental to helping grow the charter sector over the last 25 years; grants to states to create programs that support charter development and implementation efforts have provided critically needed start up funds that enable schools to start on a solid foundation. However, infusions of cash do not guarantee the creation of high quality schools that serve all children well, especially those students on the margins. As veteran and new charter school authorizers consider presumably larger applicant pools, we implore them to maintain high standards and execute robust performance contracts to ensure that growth leads to more good schools and not more average or low-performing schools. Furthermore, as the charter sector faces a potential growth spurt, we hope more charter schools and in particular, charter management organizations, leverage this opportunity to develop innovative programs for all students, including students with disabilities. Such investments will position the sector to realize its potential to be a laboratory for innovation that long term, can benefit all public schools.  

For a more in-depth analysis, see: