Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Charter Schools and Assistive Technology

By Kim Cantrell, CFILC’s Director of Programs

Do charter schools welcome students with disabilities? Turns out, not so much.

I was listening to the radio news a couple of weeks ago and heard a segment on charter schools in Florida. They discussed how many of Florida’s charter schools will not enroll students when they deem them to have “severe” disabilities, citing cost as the biggest reason. According to the report, charter schools can get away with this—even though they receive public funding—due to a loophole. The NPR Morning Edition report states:

“Where special education students attend school is determined by their Individual Education Plan (IEP). That plan is developed by the student, parents, school officials and therapists. The IEP team won't send that student to a charter school that isn't set up to serve disabled students. School districts design a systemic plan to educate students with disabilities. Charter schools do not. Their solution is often to refer students back to the traditional public schools.”

Wow. Students with disabilities are being turned away from publicly-funded charter schools because they lack the infrastructure to provide services. Based on this loophole, it doesn’t sound like Florida’s charter schools have much incentive to change things. Not only are students with disabilities being pushed away, students currently attending charter schools in Florida may not be receiving the assistive technology they need because their school is not designed to identify and meet students’ needs.

What does this have to do with California? According to researchers from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, this trend of exclusion continues in other states, including California.

Have you heard of students with disabilities being denied admission to California’s charter schools? Are students enrolled in charter schools getting the assistive technology they need to succeed? Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comment box below.


  1. Unfortunately, this is true and has been going on for awhile. When screening prospective students, the questionaire will ask if you an IEP instead of asking if you have a disability to find out. Many LA County charters simply do not implement the supports included in the IEP for Mild/Moderate Disabilities by advising parents that if they want their child to attend their charter, they have to accept that those supports can't be offered. These charters are basically not truly competing with regular district schools.

  2. So it sounds like even students with mild disabilities can't get the support they need at a charter school? When charter schools are offered as a solution to our country's education crisis, this is a problem. Our kids are being left behind.