Special Education in New Orleans: A Work in Progress

by Paul O'Neill


The Center on Reinventing Public Education (CRPE) just released a new report entitled Special Education in New Orleans: Juggling Flexibility, Reinvention, and Accountability in the Nation’s Most Decentralized School System.  Co-authored by Lynn Schnaiberg and Robin Lake, the report explores the current state of efforts there to provide and pay for special education services in the nation’s only full-choice district.  

More than 90% of New Orleans public school students now attend charter schools. The extraordinary scale of the charter sector there makes New Orleans a lightning rod for both challenges and promising practices that could have a nationwide impact. The CRPE report assesses the progress to date of attempts by state and local authorities to put in place workable, scalable approaches to service delivery, funding, control and a range of other issues that are dauntingly difficult to design and implement.  Among these are accountability for student success, parental choice even for students with severe disabilities, and human capital limitations.  CRPE makes is clear that these efforts in New Orleans are very much a work in progress and its report offers insights into key considerations going forward.