Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights Essential to Protecting Students’ Civil Rights

Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights Essential to Protecting Students’ Civil Rights

34 Senators sent a letter to Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos this week outlining their disappointment and alarm regarding steps her administration has taken to diminish enforcement of civil rights for students around the country. Changes include budget reductions and narrowing the way the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) will approach civil rights enforcement. The push to reduce the role of OCR is fueled by concerns that OCR investigations are unnecessarily time consuming and onerous and broader philosophical discussions regarding the role of state and local officials versus the federal government. Advocates for narrowing the work of OCR have speculated that increased promulgation of OCR guidance under the Obama administration may have catalyzed a high level of complaints and infringed on local control. Of particular interest is the extent to which OCR is empowered to investigate whether or not a complaint is an indication of a “broader pattern” or conversely, limited to only examining the discrete set of circumstances.

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New from NCSECS: State Finance Data and LEA Status Issue Brief

We are excited to announce the release of two new resources:

  1. The NCSECS Charter School Special Education Finance Project provides state-specific information regarding funding streams and focused reports comparing the states. Stay tuned for a fall webinar exploring this data project in depth. 
  2. The first in a series of four issue briefs from our Equity Coalition -The Impact of LEA Status gives a snapshot of the vital role the legal status of a charter school plays in its provision of special education services. This series of four issue briefs offers short descriptions of some of the common topics that shape our work. Other briefs to be released over the coming months include discussions of the role of authorizers, special ed infrastructures, and how charter schools can provide a full continuum of services to meet the needs of all students.

4 Ways Philanthropy Can Set the Bar for Special Education in Charter Schools

The 74 Million published an article written by NCSECS Executive Director, Lauren Morando Rhim urging philanthropic donors to encourage schools to build special education into their DNA rather than treat it as an afterthought. 

"I urge the philanthropic community to help the sector more proactively change the story. It is time that funders expect and incentivize excellence for students with disabilities by more intentionally incorporating special education into their grant-making processes and catalyzing innovation."

Read the full article here

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.
Please help us spread the word! Suggested Tweets: 

  • @NCSECS publishes Model Policy Guide highlighting language for states regarding special ed in charter laws. #SpEd
  • Model Policy Guide from @NCSECS valuable tool to strengthen state laws for special ed in charters. #SpEd #specialed

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."