Charter schools enroll fewer students with disabilities than traditional public schools, according to a new U.S. Government Accountability Office report.
The report’s conclusions echo our investigative story from last year that found 86 percent of Florida charter schools do not enroll any children with profound disabilities — compared to more than half of district schools which do.
The GAO report also found the largest gap was for students with intellectual disabilities. District schools enrolled students with disabilities at a rate nearly twice that of charter schools — though those students are a small percentage of the total student body.
But charter schools were more likely than district schools to have high percentages of students with disabilities. That’s likely because of schools such as the UCP charter chain in Orlando and Tampa’s Pepin Academies which specialize in autism or other disabilities.
The report highlighted a handful of reasons why charters may have fewer students with disabilities:
- Some charter schools are discouraging parents from enrolling their children.
- Parents may voluntarily choose other options.
- Special education teams may be recommending traditional public schools over charter schools.
The U.S. Department of Education is currently reviewing whether charter schools are complying with federal disabilities law.
The GAO report is dated June 7, but landed in the middle of a big national charter school conference. UCP CEO Ilene Wilkins wrote on social networking site Twitter that a panel at the conference was discussing the GAO report.
Their conclusion about why there were fewer students with disabilities in charter schools? Because charters receive less federal money for those students than district schools.
At Charter conference-regular public schools serve over 11% SWD &charters only serve about 8%.. why asked opening panel?Less federal $
— Ilene Wilkins (@izerdiver) June 20, 2012