The U.S. Government Accountability Office has released an important report documenting that most charter schools enroll fewer students with disabilities than traditional public schools. South Carolina mirrors this trend with traditional public schools enrolling approximately a third more students with disabilities than charters.As public schools, charters are prohibited from discriminating against students with disabilities, but the report suggests that other practices in charter schools may have the same effect. According to the report, anecdotal evidence indicates that charters may be ‘skimming’ students outright by requiring entrance exams or more indirectly by discouraging students with disabilities to apply for enrollment.Charter school supporters have pointed out that there are other reasons why students needing special education services may not be in charter schools, including parental choice, and other parental considerations of how well the school could serve their child, particularly those with severe disabilities.Other factors that could prevent enrollment noted in the report are also troubling, not just for students with disabilities, but also for students living in poverty: the availability of free or reduced price meals, and the availability of transportation.
The Office of Civil Rights has several compliance reviews underway regarding charter schools and students with disabilities, the report points out, and GAO also recommends that the U.S. Department of Education update its guidance for charter schools to ensure they know their responsibilities for serving students with disabilities, as well as conduct additional research on this topic.
Read the full report here: