Over the past several years, more and more students are enrolling in charter schools. This has brought up many complex legal issues that parents are forced to navigate through, especially when their child requires special education supports and services. In a nutshell, charter schools are considered to be their own Local Educational Agency (LEA). An LEA is a common way to refer to a school district. Since charter schools are considered to be their own LEA, they are responsible for providing their students with appropriate supports and services as required under federal and state law. In fact, charter schools cannot deny admission to students on the basis of disability. Charter schools are also required to seek and find children with known or suspected disabilities and to conduct comprehensive assessments upon them so that their unique needs are appropriately addressed, and they are properly identified as a student requiring an Individualized Education Program (IEP).
Previously on this blog we have warned parents of children with special needs of the importance of exploring the appropriateness of any charter school prior to enrolling their child within that educational environment. While a charter school may end up being a great environment for one child, it may not be appropriate for another child's unique needs. The best advice would be to bring your child's IEP to the prospective charter school prior to enrollment, so as to ensure that your child's placement and program can be appropriately provided for within this environment.
You may be thinking about enrolling your child into a charter school. Parents in a parent group you're in, or maybe even friends or family have their children in charter schools, and they rave about how well those kids are doing. Charter schools can boast smaller learning environments, better teacher to student ratio, smaller campuses and more teacher and staff availability to parents. All of these things are great, and they do work out very well for some students. However, you may be wondering if the charter school route is right for your child, who is enrolled in special education.