On November 15, the National Council on Disability (NCD) released two reports on school choice. The first report relates to charter schools. This report highlights many concerns with the charter school system, including the disproportionately low percentage of enrollees who have disabilities, frequent non-compliance with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), harsh codes of conduct, increased racial segregation, and the negative impact on students remaining in the traditional public school system. The report makes several recommendations to policy-makers to remedy these concerns. The second report relates to private school choice. This report recommends that schools receiving voucher funds be required to follow the IDEA, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, and accountability requirements that currently apply to public schools.
The Center for American Progress (CAP) released a report titled “Profit Before Kids”. The report detailed the low performance of for-profit virtual charter schools as well as their financial practices. The report recommends a ban on for-profit companies from operating virtual charter schools, increased regulation of non-profit virtual charter schools, and a ban on compensation incentives for enrollment of all public schools, similar to the ban that currently applies to higher education institutions. The percentage of students with disabilities in the schools studied varied considerably, from 0 to 32%.
The Schott Foundation for Public Education has issued a report grading states on their commitment to public education. The report assesses privatization programs in the 50 states and the District of Columbia with the goal of not only highlighting the benefits of a public school education, but comparing the accountability, transparency and civil rights protections offered students in the public school setting versus the private school setting. States are rated on the extent to which they have instituted policies and practices that lead toward fewer democratic opportunities and more privatization, as well as the guardrails they have (or have not) put into place to protect the rights of students, communities, and taxpayers. The report also recommends improving public schools by reducing class sizes, improving teacher training and recruitment, supporting pre-K education, and increasing parental involvement. See the report here.
On May 14, the Department of Education released guidance clarifying that charter schools – like all public schools – have a federal obligation to ensure that all children, regardless of race, national origin, sex, or disability status, receive a fair and equal opportunity to succeed. Charters have grown significantly in recent years and now make up nearly 6 percent of the nation’s public schools – three times the number in 1999. Read the Department’s letter on their website.
Representatives John Kline (R-MN) and George Miller (D-CA) introduced H.R. 10, the Success and Opportunity through Quality Charter Schools Act, which would help ensure that Charter Schools enroll and retain students with disabilities. The bill would require states to ensure that charter schools can meet the needs of students with disabilities and meet their obligations under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and Section 504. The Arc joined other organizations in supporting H.R. 10.
The US Department of Education released Charter Schools Program Non-Regulatory Guidance for charter schools that receive federal funds allowing them to use weighted lotteries in admissions in favor of disadvantaged students as long as lotteries are permissible under a state’s charter school law. “Disadvantaged” students include students who are economically disadvantaged, students with disabilities, migrant students, limited English proficient students, neglected or delinquent students, and homeless students. Federal startup funds are provided to charter schools in order to evaluate and expand the number of high quality charter schools across the nation.