small child, big shoes photo

One size does not fit all.
Photo by Neeta Lind

Tension has long been visible between
charter-school proponents and some within the special-education community. The short
version goes like this: Charter schools, which are typically mission-oriented,
small, and underfunded, find it hard to service every sort of
disability within their classrooms appropriately. So they counsel some youngsters to seek other
service providers better attuned to their particular needs. This practice riles
many SPED advocates. It angers districts, too, as they are most often obligated
to educate these high-need—and often high-cost—students. We understand the
complaints, but consider the practicalities: No individual school (regular or
charter) can serve every type of disability. Large districts can
create specialized programs at particular schools (say, for students with severe autism,
or those with Down Syndrome); small districts team up with other LEAs or
“Intermediate Units” to do the same. If a school cannot provide the necessary
resources to ensure a student’s success, then that school might not be the best
place for the child and other options need to be considered. That goes for all
public schools—including charters.

South Florida charter schools admit few special needs children,”
by Kathleen McGrory and Scott Hiaasen, The Miami-Herald, December 17,

Charter Schools Legally Turn Away Kids with Severe Disabilities?
,” by Sarah
Gonzalez, StateImpact, December 21,

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