Friday, August 28, 2009

How Charters Game the Special Ed System

When we were at the 5 city conference in LA a few weeks ago, we heard an excellent presentation from our colleagues in Washington DC, one of the heaviest hit cities by charter schools. Candi Peterson told us of the number of charter schools that make sure NOT to have a special ed teacher on the staff so they can tell parents with kids with IEPs they will not be able to serve their child adequately and wouldn't they be better off in a public school?

Can't you see the future?

Read Lisa Donlan's post on the NYC Education Listserve in response to charges the DOE was allowing private interests access to ATS private information on parents and students to recruit them for their programs and schools and you can see the future is here and now.

The office of Charter Schools justifies their attempt to pull kids out of DoE schools and into Charters as a way to equalize the demographics in those two separate education tracks.

This is a rhetorical justification that the reality does not bear out.

The reason charters do not serve students with additional learning needs, such as ELL, ED or any needs beyond SETTS is NOT because the students did not know they are an option.

This is not a marketing problem- it is a pedagogical or philosophical one.

To whit- in District One (Lower East Side of Manhattan) the average special ed population in district elementary schools is around 15% - these are students in CTT or self contained classes or are students in D75 who are mainstreamed in gen ed programs. In our Middle schools this district average jumps to 21%.

Yet the charters located in District school buildings - which serve some 11% of our district students - DO NOT OFFER ONE SINGLE CTT or SELF CONTAINED CLASS.

How is sending those kids brochures, letters, or post cards going to close that service gap?

If your child has an IEP that spells out the learning environment and services he or she needs, and your local charter schools does not offer said services what are you going to do?

Look elsewhere to enroll your child.

Charter schools, which use public tax dollars and public school buildings can afford to provide lots of nice extras- like small class size, enrichment classes, longer days, etc. in part because they do not need to serve the neediest of our children.

This nation is rushing towards a system of separate and unequal schools where, among other segregating practices, the families of our most vulnerable kids understand that they NEED NOT APPLY to charters.

Lisa Donlan

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