Accommodating special needs

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On average, however, the disabled students charter schools enroll tend to have disabilities that are less severe and less costly to remediate than those of students in district schools.Yet charter schools are public schools, supported by taxpayers and considered open to all students. Some charter school officials have suggested that official records undercount their enrollments of disabled students, because the parents of some students who would qualify as “disabled” have deliberately avoided the label or even obscured its previous use.The federal government should update its guidance on civil rights regulations for charter schools and include provisions to promote diverse or inclusive student bodies.State education agencies and charter authorizers can also support inclusion of students with disabilities by requiring—or giving preference to—charter applications with diversity considerations.

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The expansion of networks of college-prep-oriented charter schools, which do not aim to serve a broad population of students, may also indicate to parents that charter schools are not the right choice for their disabled children.The presence of special education teachers can help balance and complement the teacher corps.Furthermore, practices developed for special education students over the years have proven helpful for nondisabled students as well.Parents can fight—and some do—but these parents are already overextended and tired.Charter schools might understandably find it challenging to accommodate students with disabilities.

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