Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Charter Schools & Special Education: A New Article by Professor Weber Part I

Have you ever wondered about how the special education laws apply to students in a charter school? We tend to think of charter schools as things existing outside of the educational system. Some tell me that they are a curse; others say that they are a panacea. I suspect that the jury is still out.

Charter School of Wilmington studentsImage via Wikipedia

Back to the question of special education and the charter school, this is an area that gets people worked up sometimes. I'm going to cite an excellent law review article that might answer all your questions:
Weber, Mark C., Special Education from the (Damp) Ground Up: Children with Disabilities in a Charter School-Dependent Educational System (October 12, 2009). Loyola Journal of Public Interest Law, Forthcoming. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1487667
You can get the article if you open an account on the SSRN here.

Now I have to admit that I have a bias here. (Hearing Officers always disclose their various potential biases. At least those hearing officers that I have trained do so!) Mark Weber is my friend. He is also one of the people who think about special education law issues, and I always enjoy reading his work.

Professor Weber goes into great detail in the article, and we will just scratch the surface here. I'm going to talk a little about charter schools in New Orleans in this post and a little about procedural safeguards in the next post, but I highly recommend that you read the whole article when you get a chance. It covers a lot of important issues.

New Orleans endured a great tragedy in 2005- Hurricane Katrina. The devastation and hardship was overwhelming. The response of the government was questionable. We all remember "Brownie;" don't we?

But one issue that has been less talked about is that Hurricane Katrina wiped out the New Orleans school system, or almost all of it. According to Professor Weber's article charter schools have been a key in the rebuilding of the school system. 49 charter schools now serve over one-half of the student population in New Orleans. That's a lot of charter school kids. The Recovery School District operates schools and oversees most of the charter schools.

Professor Weber argues that children with disabilities have largely been an afterthought in the rebuilding of the school system in new Orleans. He also discusses recent allegations that charter schools in New Orleans have steered away children with disabilities. If these allegations are true, the number of legal problems for the charter schools has risen dramatically. If charter schools are a part of the solution for education, clearly they must be able to educate children with disabilities as well as any other children.

So what is your opinion, are charter schools an effective option for children with disabilities? Are they improving our educational system? What principles should apply? What do you think?

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