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February 01, 2012
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The Center on Reinventing Public Education (CRPE) has emerged as the leading voice of reason on the gap that persists between charter schools and school districts when it comes to educating students with special needs. Today, CRPE has released a new report that challenges the assertion that charters are “pushing” away special-education students and questions laws that ultimately force charters to enroll more students with learning disabilities.
CRPE asked Manhattan Institute scholar Marcus Winters to examine data from the New York City Department of Education and from New York City charter schools to help explain why there are fewer special-education students enrolled at charters. New York charters are important because the state legislature three years ago passed a law that required charters to enroll a higher share of special-education children—or at least mirror the special-education enrollments at district schools.
Just as CRPE before found more nuance in the special-education gap between charters and school districts, Winters unearthed facts that should prompt New York lawmakers to reconsider their rash decision to rush enrollment quotas into law.
Specifically, Winters found the following:
The point is that any one of these findings is enough to question the validity of special-education quotas. And while Winters restricted his study to New York, and we therefore can’t generalize his findings more broadly, New York is the state that is forcing charters to change factors it can’t control or influencing these schools to label kids as “special needs” when they otherwise wouldn’t have. This study should be enough to stop other states from adopting a similar approach.