In response to compelling needs in the charter school sector, Lauren Morando Rhim and Paul O’Neill launched the National Center for Special Education in Charter Schools (the Center) in October 2013. The Center is the first organization to focus solely on proactively working with states, charter authorizers, special education and charter school advocates and other stakeholders to raise awareness, improve access, create dynamic learning opportunities and address barriers that may impede charter schools’ enrolling and effectively educating students with disabilities. The Center’s work is guided by four priorities:
1. Document & communicate vital facts to policy makers, advocates and authorizers about the status and progress of students with disabilities in charter schools;
2. Inform policy at state and federal levels to address barriers and create opportunities for charter schools to enroll and provide effective instructional programs and individualized support to students with disabilities;
3. Develop coalitions and form essential partnerships to both protect student rights and honor the core tenets of the charter sector: choice, autonomy and accountability; and,
4. Build capacity for excellence in the field that translates to exemplary supports and services for students with disabilities in the charter sector.
Since its launch, the Center has been actively reviewing and commenting on policy, writing papers, building key partnerships linking the special education and charter school communities and engaging in targeted assistance in the charter sector in select regions.