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Saturday, September 08, 2012

Special Ed Parents: Here's the Charter Issue for You

Here's a very compelling and complete explanation of the issues of Special Ed and charter schools.

As Charlie said, you are voting for hope, not for better.  There are no guarantees except that yes, money will get diverted from existing schools.  That's your guarantee.

Depending on your child's challenge, maybe something might be there but you, but like most charters, the possibility for a better outcome for your child is not great.

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

Don't be fooled by LEV's 'Our charter bill would force charters to accept kids with disabilities.' Here is how the game is played: Yes they have to take the kids, but they don't have to go out of their way to help the kids. So after a bit of time, the family sees their kid sinking academically or socially and voila...the charter is rid of the disabled kid who 'needs a different program to succeed.' What a load. Individual schools do that in SPS and in every other public school district I've known. It's wrong. But in charters, this game is the usual, not the exception.

Or here is the other way it works: the charters claim high acceptance of disablities, but turns out that those students are largely minor learning disabilities --- that is high incidence but low impact in SPED speak).

SPS is downright backward in much of its SPED attitudes and it is woefully behind in its SPED programs. And yet - charters manage to be a significantly worse solution. They are no solution at all.

SPED Mama

Anonymous said...

And then, when the student leaves the school mid-year to attend a public school, the money remains with the Charter, right?

-Follow the money

Unknown said...

Follow the Money, our campaign, No on 1240 did the research and no, we believe the money would follow the child back to the district.

However, that could also change as it did in other states. Something to track.

Anonymous said...

All of the charters in AZ were supposed to accept kids with disabilities according to the legislation and guidelines. Theory and reality are 2 different things. Here’s how it worked for my neighbor:
First she tried to enroll her daughter in a charter. They told her they could not serve her daughter’s needs and that she should attend the local public school. She decided to push it and see how far she could get. So she gathered the legislative info, got a special ed advocate, and tried to enroll her again. Again she was refused, but this time the special ed advocate threatened legal action. So the charter agreed to let her in on a “trial basis”. Officially her daughter was on their books, but then they said they needed her to stay home for several days until they said they could ensure they had adequate staff to assist (mobility, etc.). She was home for 2 weeks. After 2 weeks, my neighbor had had enough and took her to the charter school. They were not set up for her. They did not even have her assigned to a classroom. The school was set up in a strip mall and did not meet ADA regulations (nor even fire regulations IMO - it was a rabbit warren with classrooms with no windows, etc. - not sure how that got through). Again the special ed advocate went to a meeting, this time brought legal power. So the charter school turned to one of its big supporters - a legislator - and magically, they did not have to accept this child because her needs were too great (they phrased it as being not in the best interests of the child). After a month of being home in limbo, she went back to her public school. I’m pretty sure the charter school kept the money, though I have no way to verify, since most AZ charter schools refuse to turn over records even though legally they are supposed to.
I have no doubt the same things will occur in Washington should 1240 go through.

CT

Anonymous said...

But CT, these same things happen here, daily, without charters. This is business as usual especially in the district`s more popular schools.


Sped parent

Mary Griffin said...

Anonymous, thanks for the example from AZ. I also read the article, and I wasn't surprised at all. To me it was entirely predictable.

Anyone who even looks at how charters are set up could predict that the buildings won't be ADA accessible, that the charters will be run by people who aren't even familiar with the multitude of laws governing special education, and that they will be poorly motivated to accept these students, much less try to educate them.

There are no incentives for charters to properly educate special needs students who require higher levels of staff, related services, accommodations, etc.

Charters will siphon off already limited funding for all students. So even if your child does not attend a charter, resources for him or her in the SPS will be less.

For special ed parents, there is always discontent with public schools, but charter schools are a snake-oil cure for the ills of public school special education.

Jan said...

Melissa -- thanks for this thread. I agree with Mary Griffin. What the article describes is in fact totally predictable.

These issues -- of choice, of how to provide the best possible education for SPED kids in an inclusive environment, of how to get teachers and staff to step up to the challenge of helping SPED kids learn, when some of them just don't want to -- are not isolated to charter schools. But it cannot be a defense of the charter problem (which is drastically WORSE than the problem in regular schools) to just say "oh, well, this happens in public schools too."

Nor do I think it is acceptable if what we do is have some "special" charter schools where ALL the kids in the school have austism spectrum disorders, or ALL of the kids are ADHD. The crux of the issue is having schools so "decentralized" from the overall system that they fall totally outside the planning and education for a diverse student population. As a SPED parent evaluating SSD high schools, I did not expect that every single comprehensive and option high school would have an equal ability to meet my child's needs. But it would have been unacceptable to be shunted off to one "special needs" high school, and told that unlike all other Seattle kids, he had no other options. There is a reasonable middle ground here, and charters are not reaching it -- most are not even trying (or are actively avoiding it).

Anonymous said...

"There is a reasonable middle ground here, and charters are not reaching it -- most are not even trying (or are actively avoiding it)."

Jan, aren't you buying into the basic anti charter scare tactic? Suddenly it's important to care about the special needs kids. There may be districts where the difference is meaningful for special education, charters v public schools. That is not the case here.

Reader

Jan said...

Reader -- Maybe I am. I can't really tell. I am not sure I have very defensible positions here, partly because I only have my personal SPED experience to go on, and partly because this seems like a problem that no one has really addressed adequately.

Thinking out loud, I will say this: there ARE public schools where some SPED kids learn successfully (this is so vague, it is like the stopped watch being right twice a day, I know). And there are LOTS of problems -- mostly caused by money and staffing shortages, which have led to bad policy and worse implementation of it.

The question is: how might, and how do, charter schools fit into the equation. Here is what I think (I think):

1. If the problem is money, charter schools will make it worse UNLESS they come with significant added grant funding (like the Harlem Zone School). Since that model is either rare or nonexistent, it seems perilous to "hope" that maybe in Washington, one or two of the 40 charter schools will do what has not been done elsewhere (an inclusion model, with extra grant funding to support SPED dids (and maybe regular ed kids too). Absent a "secret Santa," charters will take the same pot of money, subtract the costs of the commission, and divide the remaining fewer dollars by more buildings and infrastructure. Net loss. Status Quo 1 Charters 0.

From the article, it appears that charters "remove" themselves one more step from accountability for SPED kids by simply and mysteriously "failing to be able to accommodate" SPED kids. While this goes on to SOME degree in regular public schools, the fact that every SPED kid has a place in at least ONE public school, and very few SPED kids have a place in ANY charter tells me that this added step is yet one more barrier to access to an appropriate education -- and a very significant barrier at that. If SPED families are already having trouble getting choice and appropriate placements for kids in public schools (remember, these schools HAVE to fit them in somewhere, so for a few, they may decide -- what the hell, they might as well try and do it right), on what possible logical basis could I conclude that a system of schools that can avoid the issue altogether (by simply not having any rooms available for ST or OT, or not having an elevator, or not having any staff who are SPED qualified) would go out of their way to create an environment that would permit a complicated, harder-to-teach SPED kid to enroll? And, voila! This, in fact, is what the numbers seem to suggest.

So, yes. I guess I still think the difference is meaningful. Charters add additional barriers, and make the problem materially more difficult to fix.

Anonymous said...

As a parent of a child who has special education needs (Autism Spectrum Disorder) and previously attended a charter school that was set up like the blended classrooms at the EEU, I welcome 1240 and will vote yes.

In a charter school, my child thrived, made progress and was made to feel welcomed in the classroom. She received instruction with non disabled peers in smaller sized classrooms, managed by a special education teacher. The classrooms were set up using universal design which had modifications so children with disabilities could participate without looking different. My child was not isolated in a separate classroom like Seattle schools do....plus it was not more expensive than traditional schools.

There has not been one day in which our family and disabled child were welcomed in Seattle schools. Their teachers were always burdened with following my child's special ed. plan and administrators never implemented special education plans because special ed. funding was used for other building priorities.

If charter schools means that parents of children with disabilities will FINALLY have a choice to find a school that will work, a school that allows their child to make progress, but most importantly a school that welcomes their child who has different needs... no one should ever deny these families this choice.

What people here in WA don't know is that charters CAN and DO work for children with special education needs. You can no longer base your decisions on the fears of the unknown and make sweeping generalizations when you have no personal experience.

As a parent of a special needs child, I welcome this choice, and would never deny any other parent the opportunity to find something that works for their child. The Seattle schools option for special ed is no option and is no choice.

And as such I will vote yes on 1240.

Anonymous said...

As a parent of a child who has special education needs (Autism Spectrum Disorder) and previously attended a charter school that was set up like the blended classrooms at the EEU, I welcome 1240 and will vote yes.

In a charter school, my child thrived, made progress and was made to feel welcomed in the classroom. She received instruction with non disabled peers in smaller sized classrooms, managed by a special education teacher. The classrooms were set up using universal design which had modifications so children with disabilities could participate without looking different. My child was not isolated in a separate classroom like Seattle schools do....plus it was not more expensive than traditional schools.

There has not been one day in which our family and disabled child were welcomed in Seattle schools. Their teachers were always burdened with following my child's special ed. plan and administrators never implemented special education plans because special ed. funding was used for other building priorities.

If charter schools means that parents of children with disabilities will FINALLY have a choice to find a school that will work, a school that allows their child to make progress, but most importantly a school that welcomes their child who has different needs... no one should ever deny these families this choice.

What people here in WA don't know is that charters CAN and DO work for children with special education needs. You can no longer base your decisions on the fears of the unknown and make sweeping generalizations when you have no personal experience.

As a parent of a special needs child, I welcome this choice, and would never deny any other parent the opportunity to find something that works for their child. The Seattle schools option for special ed is no option and is no choice.

And as such I will vote yes on 1240.