Since the early 1990’s, charter schools have sought to provide a public school choice option for parents and students in communities across the country. Although still a publically funded school, charter schools have distinct characteristics which differ from traditional public schools, namely exemption from certain state/local rules and regulations in exchange for increased accountability requirements.
Over the last two decades, 40 states and the District of Columbia have passed charter school laws. Charter schools are now serving two million students in 5,500 schools, nationwide.
As public schools, charter schools must comply with all federal education laws, including the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). Despite this requirement, there have been reports that students with disabilities are underrepresented in charter schools. While the reasons for this under enrollment are debatable, some reports have indicated that charter schools do not have the capacity to identify, evaluate, and serve students with disabilities, particularly students with significant disabilities.
CEC believes that charter schools must reflect a commitment to free and universal public education, with equality and educational opportunity for all. As such, charter schools, the chartering agency and authorizer, and ultimately the highest governmental authority, must ensure that the rights of children and youth with exceptionalities are upheld.
CEC Issue Brief: Improving Special Education in Charter Schools
CEC's Policy on Children with Exceptionalities in Charter Schools
CEC's ESEA Reauthorization Recommendations
Federal Report: Additional Federal Attention Needed to Help Protect Access for Students with Disabilities
From CEC's Policy Insider Blog: Charter School Bill Clears House Education Committee; CEC Supports New Provisions for Students with Disabilities
CEC Urges President to Place Students with Disabilities at Forefront of Charter School Initiatives
CEC agreed with the Obama Administration that charter schools must be held to the same high level of accountability as traditional public schools and are at their best when they serve as centers of innovation. But CEC pointed out data that demonstrates charter schools often overlook and underserve students with disabilities. Therefore, in June 2009, CEC wrote a letter to President Barack Obama urging the administration to place students with disabilities at the forefront of their charter school initiatives.