In service of the 6.8 million students with disabilities and their families, we thank the National Council on Disability and the Bipartisan Disabilities Caucus for devoting resources to investigate this important topic. The National Center for Special Education in Charter Schools (NCSECS) exists to ensure that students with disabilities can fully access and thrive in charter schools. Today’s report, which includes data provided by NCSECS, reminds us of the innovative and transformative power of charter schools and also underscores the challenges that many parents face when seeking to exercise school choice as well as the challenges charters face in adequately admitting and serving students with disabilities.
Students with disabilities continue to enroll in charter schools at lower rates than traditional public schools; however, more research is needed to understand the reasons why. In addition, states and authorizers need to work with charter schools to ensure they are developing the expertise required to serve students who will enroll.
In certain geographic locations, parents predominantly choose charter schools when their child is not well served by the local public school; therefore, assuring that more families have a similar choice is imperative to assuring an equitable choice is available wherever charter schools exist
Serious fiscal equity challenges exist regardless of the charter’s status as a school or its own local education authority. Authorizers can and should help by implementing key recommendations offered via the report.
In order for charter schools to be considered legitimate public school options, they must address these challenges head on. Similarly, voucher programs should heed the lessons reinforced by this report. The Principles of Equitable Schools establish core principles that should be upheld by any school enrolling students using public dollars. We encourage all schools to align their school design, policies, and programming with the Principles as a starting point so that all students with disabilities have access to schools of choice committed to providing a high quality education to every student.