Charter Schools and Special Education/ELL - Fifth in a Series

In researching Special Education/ELL as it relates to charter schools, it’s a lot of the same issues that you see in traditional public schools - money, service delivery and compliance with the law.   (Note: this part of the series does focus more on Special Education than ELL because there just isn’t as much information out there on ELL and charters.  If anyone has more information, please let me know.)
 Charter schools must serve children with disabilities just as does the district where the charter school resides.   As well, the funds provided to that district would also be provided to a charter school.  Again, money follows students. 

Charter schools are “responsible” for complying with federal civil rights laws.   I put “responsible” in quotes because being responsible and actually acting responsible (or being forced into compliance) are two different things. 

Charter schools: 
  • Must be sure that parents in the community who are not English-proficient have the ability to understand your outreach materials that you provide to English-speaking parents.  If you have printed materials, they must be printed in other languages and if verbal, then those parents should have an opportunity to understand what is being said.  But again, it is not easy to force compliance so do I think it happens most of the time?  Probably not.

  • Cannot deny admission to a child under Section 504 and Title II. 
  • Cannot select a facility that would limit enrollment of students with disabilities.

Also about facilities, it depends on if it is a new building or older building (anything after June 1977 is considered “new”).  For older buildings, the charter’s program and activities must be readily accessible to disabled students but Section 504 and Title II give a lot of leeway on this issue.   For example if they needed two rooms out of one, they could just use a barrier rather than having to build a wall.

For new construction, Section 504 and Title II require that a new building (or one with a new/updated section) must be readily accessible to all students including those with disabilities.

Under 504 and Title II, students with disabilities and their parents are entitled to due process from the authorizing entity regarding identification, evaluation and placement. 

For ELL students there aren’t any particular federal requirements but if a program is set up, it must be based on sound theory, with qualified staff and adequate resources. 

As I previously mentioned, money follows a student.   There may also be funds beyond those provided by the feds.  Like traditional public schools, charters cobbled together funds from as many sources as possible to pay for special education needs.  Sometimes there is agreement between charters and the district they are in to pool money/resources/services.   Some charters even go out–of-district to other districts for help.   Special Ed and ELL issues are complicated and many charter operators do not understand the federal law and how to access resources.  

Charter may also have a harder time getting good Special Ed teachers because of the costs. 

Looking over what is out there state-by-state, well, it’s hard to say.  Both Alaska and Kansas charter law are completely silent on special education responsibilities and funding.    That’s frightening because I cannot understand how legislators could completely forget about a whole group of students.  

Minnesota law says that charter schools may bill a student's resident school district for any additional funds needed to cover excess costs over and above the state and federal funds allocated for that student.

Contrast that with New Jersey where the charter school is its own district.   The law there requires the school to provide and fund special education services except for low-incident, high-cost students, for which the resident school district takes the responsibility and funding obligation.

There are a couple of different models for funding including an “insurance” model that allows a charter to contract with a district for Special Ed services and the charter pays the school district what looks like an insurance premium for those services. 

I found a good blog, Randy Chapman’s Ability Law blog, and he states:

Tracking responsibility for ensuring charter school compliance with federal special education law can be confusing.   If the school district is the local education agency (LEA – a term to know when discussing charters), then that district has overall responsibility.  A parent could then complain to the district.

However if the charter school is its own LEA, then the charter school itself is responsible.   (But each state does have its own SEA – state education agency – and they are also responsible.)   But you would have to make sure you don’t get run in circles as it appears could happen.

So what about the programs?  Charter schools can create their own internal programs or affiliate with another entity (like an existing school district) to supply services to students with disabilities. 

A Special Ed student must be in an inclusion classroom and can only be placed in a separate environment if their educational needs cannot be met in the inclusion classrooms. 

One interesting study by the research firm, Westat, is called Charter Schools and Students with Disabilities; A National Study (by Fiore, Harwell, Blackorby and Finnigan in 2000).   It asked at 32 charter schools – asking parents, teachers and students – about why parents chose a charter school for their child.  They found:
  • Enrollment of students with more significant disabilities in charter schools is relatively rare, except in schools specifically designed for these students.
  • Staff at some charter schools may "counsel" parents of students with disabilities against enrolling in the charter school. However, other schools are specifically designed to serve these students and other at-risk learners.
  • Most charter schools use the term "inclusion" to describe their approach to serving students with disabilities. The meaning of the term varies across schools.
  • By almost all accounts, students with and without disabilities receive more individualized attention at the charter school than they did at their previous school.
  •  Although accountability is a central feature of charter schools, most of them have little data to document the impact of their program on students with disabilities. However, parents and students themselves are confident about the students' success at charter schools. Factors identified as supporting student success include caring and dedicated teachers and small schools and classes. 
  •  Some barriers encountered include lack of adequate funding, strained relationships with local districts, lack of extracurricular activities, and transportation.

One of the most important issues in Special Education and ELL and charters that is the hallmark of charter schools overall is accountability.   (I’ll have more to say on that topic when I get to the Landscape Today part of this series.)   

The charter document that a charter school creates can say it will be accountable but that is not the case in many charter schools.  They do not have to demonstrate to their charter grant overseer that they have the capacity to do what they say they will.

From the federal DOE:

To date, there is no case law establishing whether, or the degree to which, authorizers can be held responsible for special education in the schools they authorize, nor is there judicial precedent that explicitly releases authorizers from responsibility related to special education. This does not mean that authorizers cannot or will not be held responsible at some point in the future.

What is my role in ensuring that charter schools fulfill their mission while complying with their obligation related to adaptation, accommodations and modifications required by IDEA?  
Authorizers should require applicants to articulate their mission explicitly and ensure that the charter school is prepared to offer reasonable accommodations to children with disabilities who elect to attend the school. A key component of reasonable accommodations is a school culture that incorporates a commitment to offering accommodations to individuals with disabilities while guarding against substantively changing the nature of the school's mission.

While there are charters that are more friendly to Special Ed/ELL students, the majority still have lower numbers of these students than do traditional schools even in areas with a number of charter schools.  

So why would there be a gap between the number of Special Ed students in traditional public schools and those in charter schools?  There is speculation that either fewer Special Ed students choose charters or they avoid their diagnosis when they do attend a charter school.   Some charters may not be as willing as a traditional school to classify a student Special Ed if there is an indication they are a borderline student. 

Charters DO enroll Special Ed students but stats show they do not enroll the same variety as do traditional schools.  Meaning, the Special Ed students who attend charters have much lower levels of disability than their counterparts in traditional schools in their district. 

One state, Louisiana, and one city, New Orleans, both seem to have major problems with Special Education issues and charter schools.  Louisiana had a lawsuit filed against its DOE alleging that charter schools have been turning away parents with disabled students and shirking their responsibilities to make sure they do adequately serve those students they do enroll.    

New Orleans is an interesting case study as after Katrina, the city became one big charter district.  The lack of a centralized system of services makes it difficult for parents there to ensure service for their child.   But suspension of Special Ed students in New Orleans is sky-high; overall, nearly one-third have been suspended.   Two schools have suspended half of their Special Ed students. 

One interesting charter is Opportunity Charter School located in NYC which was founded to have a 50-50 population of Special Ed and non-disabled students.   In Colorado, after finding there were few charter options for learning-disabled students, “the Omar D. Blair Charter school was opened as the first charter-based multi-intensive center program for students with significant disabilities.”


anonymous said…
Thank you Melissa for covering this in an unbiased, fact based, manner. That his rare when it comes to charter school discussions and I really appreciate it.

Anonymous said…
Unfortunately, the exclusions in charters are de facto practiced in seattle schools. Look at where our.children w special needs are clustered. Nothing wrong w clustering per se, but none of the parent first choice schools has the natural proportion of students w disabilities and my guess is that ics has not solved this problem.

Parent, I have a feeling that it depends on the charter (just as the traditional) how your child gets served. My reading shows parents with Special Ed students do like a small school and feel their child gets more attention. Does that translate to services? I don't know.

But could you tell me more about the "parent first choice schools"? Are you saying that students are clustered at schools that parents would not choose if they had been given a choice? Is that about programing, distance, school environment? I have wondered about when the NSAP was being planned if anyone thought about anything else for those students besides services.
Jan said…
Parent and Melissa: I suspect that parent is correct in saying that there are fewer sped kids in many really popular schools (just easier to go with the pressure and move what you can -- the special program) -- but I have never seen any data that proves it. Do we have that data? I will try to go see if maybe school reports have all sped kids in a building -- though the analysis is actually a more complicated one, I suspect.
Anonymous said…
Although accountability is a central feature of charter schools, most of them have little data to document the impact of their program on students with disabilities.

Ditto for public schools. When it comes to people with disabilities - there's always an outcry about accountability... but never a glance as to the accountability or quality currently available in public schools. There's a similar outcry about "inclusion" when students with disabilities are included, and how that might be inappropriate. But there's never any outcry about the known state of "self-containment".

There's absolutely NO accountability by anybody for anything related to special education in public schools. Who oversees IEPs? Nobody. Who makes sure that any school has the services and staff outlined on any IEP? Nobody. The district program model is based solely on butts-in-seats. That means, it doesn't actually matter to anybody if the needs special education students either as a group or individually is being met. And what about results? There is a great numbers of high schools that can't even get a single students with an IEP to pass state tests. The district has demonstrated that it is completely unaccountable, for anything.

The only issue on which there is accountability(sometimes) is the processing of the IEP document. That is, most schools will make sure that there is actually a piece of paper in place on the right date. That's it.

-sped parent
Anonymous said…
Parent, there is no "first choice" anymore. Where have you been? We're in a neighborhood assignment system. Sure, you can write in what you want under the guise of choice. But the district has orchestrated the capacity issue by artificially setting the capacity of every building to be exactly those who are living in the neighborhood. And, without sibling preference, there's no choice. Students with disabilities aren't clustered under ICS. They are simply not served.

-sped parent
SeattleSped said…
Don't have it at my fingertips however a very knowledgeable parent with a SpEd child used OSPI data to demonstrate that, YES, SpEd "programs" (you know, those things that don't exist anymore) were predominately located in buildings failing to meet AYP. Good Luck requesting to move your child, however. The "lever pull" doesn't exist for our "GenEd Students first" kids.
old salt said…
The charter advocates on the PTSA legislative listserve believe that charter schools will close the achievement gap where regular public schools haven’t. They cite KIPP as an example of a charter model that does this. One of the suspicions about KIPP is that they, benefit from being a choice school by skimming the most proactive involved families out of the local public school and by counseling out disabled students. If that is the case, then I question whether they are really closing the achievement gap. In order to make sure that does not happen in Washington, some have proposed that charter schools be required to maintain the same proportions & levels of special needs students as are found in the local public school or in the general population. It is fun to imagine schools recruiting special ed students in order to keep their charter. (I can build a scenario where families get offers of special services from competing schools, like college athlete recruitment.) I don’t know how you ensure that charters are not skimming motivated families when they are choice schools.

Maybe Wa should establish a citizens watchdog group to keep track of charter accountability.

Currently I believe that charters offer a way for some students to get into classrooms where there are lower numbers of disabled, ELL, homeless, and other needier students. I would like to see data about changes in the neighborhood school once a charter moves in. What happens to the kids left in that school.
Charlie Mas said…
@ Jan -

Here is the Individual School Summary section of the annual District Summary. It is an absolute bonanza of raw data. It is not, however, in a searchable or sortable form.

It does show, however, the demographic data for each school.

The SpEd population of each attendance area high school ranges from a low of 6.1% at Garfield and 8.9% at Roosevelt (arguably the most popular schools in the District) to a high of 17.6% at West Seattle and 17.5% at Nathan Hale.

The option high schools have very high concentrations including The NOVA Project with 17.9%, STEM with 13.4% and the Center School with 15.8%.

Among the attendance area middle schools, the lowest SpEd concentrations can be found at Hamilton (10.2%) and Whitman (11.7%). Nearly all of the schools are clustered within two percentage points of 12%, but there are two outliers: Aki Kurose at 16.3% and Denny at 19.5%. It is worth noting that the other West Seattle middle school, Madison, is also on the high side at 14.6%.

West Seattle appears to be home to a statistically higher concentration of disabled students in middle and high school than the rest of the District.

A deeper analysis, however, would be required to distinguish among the severity of the student disabilities. I don't want to get into the de-humanizing practice of calculating relative values between students with IEPs who can be served in ICS versus those who require self-contained classrooms. I won't try to determine some algorithm for comparing those with cognitive disabilities versus physical disabilities versus behavioral or emotional disabilities. I won't play that game. Those who are curious may find their answers in the school budgets.
Charlie Mas said…
The distribution of SpEd student concentrations is more diffuse at the elementary school level.

It ranges from a low of 4.3% at JSIS to a high of 21.0% at Roxhill.

Yow. That's a much greater standard deviation.

The District average is 10.5%. The schools with notably lower concentrations (< 7%) are:
JSIS - 4.3%
Bryant - 4.6%
Dearborn Park - 6.8%
Lafayette - 6.8%
Loyal Heights - 7.0%
McGilvra - 6.7%
Queen Anne - 5.4%
Viewlands - 6.3%
Whittier - 5.2%

The schools with The schools with notably higher concentrations (> 13%) are:
Arbor Heights - 14.6%
Emerson - 14.8%
Gatzert - 18.6%
Highland Park - 13.6%
Northgate - 17.3%
Olympic Hills - 16.1%
Roxhill - 21.0%
Stevens - 13.2%
Thornton Creek - 18.1%
Van Asselt - 13.7%
West Seattle - 14.5%

You'll note that I included Queen Anne and Thornton Creek despite the fact that they are option schools rather than attendance area schools.

Thornton Creek, one of the most popular schools in the district, has one of the highest concentrations of students with IEPs. That said, that isn't really the trend for popular schools.

Most of the K-8s are close to 13%, but SouthShore stands out as a low with 9.8% and Pathfinder stands out as a high with 24.5%. There's something about West Seattle.
anonymous said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
dan dempsey said…
Thank You Charlie!!

So what's up with WSHS, Sealth, and Cleveland over time?

Seattle School District SpEd population percent as reported by OSPI each May.

12.4% - 2005 <== Lowest
13.7% - 2006
12.7% - 2007
13.9% - 2008
14.2% - 2009
14.3% - 2010
14.2% - 2011

West Seattle High School SpEd population percent as reported by OSPI each May. (and number of SpEd students) {{ October School population of that school year }} --- {May School population}

12.0% - 2005 - {{1182}}
10.9% - 2006 - {{1298}}
11.4% - 2007 - {{1361}}
11.8% - 2008 - {{1240}}
11.6% - (132) 2009 - {{1196}} --- {1134}
12.8% - (139) 2010 - {{1137}} --- {1082}
15.6% - (148) 2011 - {{1018}} --- {946}

Note at WSHS the May population of SpEd Students has risen from 132 to 148, while the School population in May has declined from 1134 to 946.

2011 was the first time that WSHS's SpEd percent exceeded the District SpEd percentage.

I was at WSHS in that 2006-2007 (1361) year.
Cleveland was being rebuilt (year two of student displacement) the CHS students were at the Boren site. Several Cleveland students figured that WSHS was a better deal. Cleveland reopened in fall 2007.

WSHS has been home to an excellent SpEd Staff that serves a high needs population with I believe more severally handicapped students than at most other high schools.

So what about Chief Sealth HS?

Chief Sealth High School SpEd population percent as reported by OSPI each May. (and number of SpEd students) {{ October School population of that school year }} --- {May School population}

16.5% - 2005 - {{926}}
15.9% - 2006 - {{915}}
14.0% - 2007 - {{896}}
13.4% - 2008 - {{913}}
14.2% - (120) 2009 - {{874}} --- {844}
13.1% - (123) 2010 - {{987}} --- {939}
13.1% - (139) 2011 - {{1074}} --- {1060}

Here are same Stats for Cleveland HS SpEd population.
** Indicates remodeling year.

12.1% - 2005 - {{770}}
15.0% - 2006 - {{669}}**
16.2% - 2007 - {{590}}**
16.1% - 2008 - {{664}}
16.7% - (104) 2009 - {{695}} --- {622}
14.3% - (95) 2010 - {{697}} --- {663}
14.6% - (99) 2011 - {{738}} --- {678}

I think that this year's fall enrollment (Oct 2011) is up a lot at Cleveland ... but I could not find the right place on the District Web site. Could someone please provide the Oct 2011 enrollments for WSHS, Sealth, and Cleveland.

Cleveland largest October population of 770 and lowest SpEd percent was before the remodel in October 2004 . The remodel was along Gates Foundation Small Schools design, which was passe by the time CHS reopened. Did the remodel improve SpEd facilities?

I think October 2011 CHS population may be more than 770.

Anonymous said…
A deeper analysis, however, would be required to distinguish among the severity of the student disabilities.

You don't need a deeper analysis of anything. You just need a list of where all the district's special education programs are located. Students with more severe needs are served in programs. Around 1/3 of the district's special education students are served in programs. You can't really say much without knowing how those programs are populated since it is such a high percentage. Just look at the programs to get the numbers. The number of students per program is contractually based. Here are the locations of all the programs. You can note the district killing of "inclusion" programs by the fact that the grade range served is 3 - 5. Actually, it's really more like only 4 and 5, with everybody else being dumped into ICS or into new self-contained programs like a new one at Graham Hill. Note that the Hamilton and Whitman areas are squeezing students out by having relatively few programs as compared with the size of their areas. Absent from this chart is the number of programs each school actually has. For example, Thurgood Marshall has 3 autism self-contained programs, the chart lists only the type of program. Likewise, Thornton Creek has 3 autism programs, which is why its numbers are high.

These are all district reported numbers. Much better to look at actual OSPI data which is more complete.

-another sped parent
Anonymous said…
Isn't Hamilton's assistant principal the same one who used to be at McGilvra? Notice that both schools have been inclusion resistant (McGilvra after kindergarten) for years and years and years. Where are the advocates for inclusion?

Both the former and present superintendents have vowed to change all of this squeezing sped students out of popular schools but in fact it is getting worse. The Garfield situation is way out there. And ICS services are so degraded from inclusion programs. Instead of putting out more inclusion program opportunities with the right staffing, there are fewer inclusion programs period and all the students supposedly served in ICS are being neglected.

another sped parent
Anonymous said…
Charlie, thanks for calling out the systemic exclusion of disabled students from popular schools.

Anonymous said…
The vice principal at Hamilton has no control over the fact that there are no special education programs in the Hamilton service area. Same goes for every other person working at Hamilton. ??? That's a very weird logic. I thought this thread was about Charters and special education - not complaining about random people.

Anonymous said…
@ Parent:"The vice principal at Hamilton has no control over the fact that there are no special education programs in the Hamilton service area. ... That is weird logic ..."

Parent, you are so wrong. The building leadership sets the tone. Building leadership advocates. Building leadership steers the discussion in the school about who gets services and how well they are doing with those services. Building leadership can encourage families or discourage families. Unless you choose not to notice. And this can and does translate directly into whether a popular school is pulling its weight and opening its doors to all comers.

Speaking of which, how is Garfield getting away with it?

dw said…
Parent, you are so wrong.

No Parent (with the duplicate, unimaginative handle), you are wrong.

Building staff has virtually no say in what programs end up in their building. Do you think Chris Carter wants to have APP at Hamilton? Ha. Make that a double Ha. APP was foisted on him because there was kinda-sorta room in his building and central admin knew they would be able to boot out the kids that were taking the bus up from the south end.

At this point there is absolutely no room in the building to even consider adding a program or expanding anything else in the building. Next year, if things continue on the expected trajectory, the building will be ridiculously beyond capacity.

Speaking of Garfield, they are in a similar position. The NSAP makes a lot of guarantees about seats, and that makes it incredibly difficult to deal with program placement issues.

Sure, building level staff can set the tone for their programs, and yes, they can encourage or discourage parents and students, but make no mistake, the central office is 100% in control of program placement. If a principal (let alone a vice-principal) has a problem with it, they will either adapt or be pushed out.

I have no doubt that many SpEd families are getting shafted these days and I have no special affection for HIMS administration, but the anger and disappointment needs to be directed at those responsible.
Charlie Mas said…
Actually, we have no idea how Program Placement is done.

Theoretically it is decided at the District level, but we don't know that. Not only don't we know how those decisions were made, we no longer have any way of discovering how those decisions were made.

There used to be a Program Placement Committee, a committee with secret membership that met behind closed doors to discuss and decide program placement. For all of their secrecy, the program placement committee did have minutes that you could request as public documents. That committee no longer exists.

We don't know how Program Placement decisions are made today.

I have minutes from meetings of the Program Placement Committee in which it is perfectly clear that principals have vetoed the placement of programs - including both special education and advanced learning - at their schools.

Here's an interesting fact: the Program Placement policy, C56.00, which was written because the program placement process was so secret, corrupt, and political, requires the superintendent to distribute a document describing the program placement decision process. But Dr. Enfield has refused to tell anyone how she makes program placement decisions.

So no one can say that they are decided at the district level with no input from the schools. No one - except the superintendent - can say anything about how these decisions are made. And the superintendent, who is required by Board policy to describe the process, refuses to say.

I specifically asked her and she specifically refused. The Board specifically asked her and she specifically refused them as well.
Anonymous said…
Eckstein has a much bigger over-enrollment problem than Hamilton, so I don't think you can excuse the school based on that.

The other difference is that Eckstein allows flexibility on an individual basis. You can be in self contained for one period or the whole day. You can also be in a blended class with a general ed & special ed teacher team teaching. You can also be in general ed class or a spectrum class with various levels of support. These class assignments can be mixed & matched and even changed during the year to meet the child's needs.

At Hamilton you are in the self contained all day or out. No flexibility. No individual plan. It's hard to believe Hamilton admin. couldn't change that. Parents are told this ahead of time, so they can try to avoid the school.

sped parent
Sahila said…
The KKK loves charter schools - "separate but equal"???

"The kids in the article below seem to be happy. Parents have been given a choice as to where to send their children and without government interference, many have selected schools with a student population that reflects the race of those children. In addition, many of these schools satisfy the children’s longing to identify with their racial history by incorporating cultural studies relating to their ethnicity. There is nothing wrong with this, yet some think it is terrible. In fact, the majority of people prefer to be around others who are like them. Even those who enjoy international travel and experiencing other cultures still, for the most part, live the rest of their life among those of similar racial background. Why does this make some social engineers so angry? It is only natural. Each race should have the right to determine their own affairs without interference. This is why homogeneous nations are good for world peace. Everyone needs their own space. And parents who choose charter schools for their children based upon this fact are doing so instinctually and its healthy for their families."

Segregated Charter Schools Evoke Separate but Equal Era in U.S.
dw said…
The other difference is that Eckstein allows flexibility on an individual basis. You can be in self contained for one period or the whole day.
At Hamilton you are in the self contained all day or out. No flexibility. No individual plan.

I agree with you that the Eckstein model of flexibility that you describe is far more desirable. What I was addressing was the issue of program placement.

Charlie brings up some good points. Program placement is a odd mix of secrecy, top-down management, (faux?) public engagement and probably some voodoo or ouija boards as well.

I'll adjust my position somewhat to say that in many cases, the building does not have any say or influence in the programs they are required to serve. However, there are likely other situations where some particularly strong, well-connected or well-liked folks in some buildings may be able to influence the process.

The problem, of course, like Charlie says, is that the process is so secretive and obfuscated that almost no one know what the hell is behind the decisions.

I see some glimmers of hope with the creation of the very public FACMAC and Advanced Learning Task Force groups, as programs and capacity are tightly linked. But I won't actually believe substantive change has occurred until I see real, meaningful decisions implemented that come out of these groups. Even after that, I won't believe it until I see the process repeated with other groups like SpEd.
Anonymous said…
Jeez. The point about the Hamilton vice principal - the vice principal has absolutely NOTHING to do with the special ed programs in the service AREA. (formerly called a "cluster"). On that point, there is no arguement. So why all the grousing? The venom towards one employee at Hamilton is misplaced, at least on that account.

That is, the entire Hamilton service area has NO special ed programs in its elementary schools. That was the original point about squeezing out special ed. However bad anybody at Hamilton may or may not be, whatever the tone - she did not decide that the entire region should shuffle out special ed. That has occured for years.

Hamilton, the middle school, actually has a lot of special ed programs... as others have noted - all pretty horrible. All predating the vice principal. Eckstein is much better - for everything it would seem.

-sped parent
Anonymous said…
Taking Safety to a new level in Chater schools.

The surveys also observed areas of non-compliance that may expose individuals with disabilities to unsafe conditions. These include the lack of detectable warning surfaces, non-compliant crosswalks, protruding objects, lack of vertical headroom clearance, pipes not wrapped at lavatories, non-compliant call box controls in elevators and tripping hazards. In addition to non-compliant items associated with Title 24 of the CBC, potential safety violations were evident at some sites, such as exposed wiring in student bathrooms.

The surveys at the 29 independent charters found the inspection process was inadequate for ensuring that these sites meet the State and federal access compliance requirements. These findings are evidence of the impact of independent charters on the District’s systemic problems that prevent substantial compliance with the accessibility requirements of the American with Disabilities Act and Section 504.

Systemic capacity is also limited in independent charter schools as most sites are disconnected from policies and procedures of the District’s maintenance and operations department. The Charter Schools do not have one centralized point of information that is disseminated to all sites.
The building leadership sets the tone. Building leadership advocates. Building leadership steers the discussion in the school about who gets services and how well they are doing with those services. Building leadership can encourage families or discourage families.
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