Florida

Putting Education Reform To The Test

Topics

IMG_0149

No Choice: Students With Disabilities and Florida's Charter Schools

Background

According to state law, every student is supposed to have an equal shot at enrollment – including students with disabilities. But students with severe disabilities are not appearing in most charter school classrooms.

StateImpact Florida and the Miami Herald gathered and analyzed data on K-12 students with disabilities from 14 school districts representing more than three-quarters of Florida’s total charter enrollment.

The analysis focused on students in the state’s two most severe disability categories, which includes some students with autism, Down syndrome, and cerebral palsy. It shows:

•             More than 86 percent of the charter schools do not serve a single child with a severe disability – compared to more than half of district schools which do.

•             In Duval County, just one student enrolled in a charter school has a severe disability. Duval district schools educate more than 1,000 severely-disabled students.

•             There’s not a single child with a severe disability in charter schools in Pinellas County, the nation’s 24th-largest school district.

•             The majority of charter school students with severe disabilities are concentrated in a handful of schools that specialize in those disabilities, often autism.

Charter school advocates say they recognize the issue and that more schools that specialize in students with disabilities are opening.District schools work in a similar way, with schools specializing in a particular disability.

Not every school is expected to serve every student that walks in the door, education officials said.

But Thomas Hehir, a Harvard University professor who helped rewrite the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, said the system is excluding students with disabilities.

“That is unfortunately what we find in altogether too many places,” Hehir said. “I think that there is a disincentive to enroll these kids because they cost more money to educate.”

Latest Posts

Orlando Charter School Excels At Serving Students With And Without Disabilities

When her three-year-old granddaughter moved to Orlando, the dean of education at the University of Central Florida knew exactly where she should go — a school founded for children with disabilities. Young Ellie doesn’t have a disability. But Sandra Robinson says she’s still best served in the toddler program at the UCP Bailes campus in [...]

Can Charter Schools Legally Turn Away Kids With Severe Disabilities?

Tonya Whitlock and her son Tres, 17, say they have not been able to get Tres into Pivot Charter School near Tampa. Tres has cerebral palsy, and the the family said the charter school is concerned they cannot provide all the services Tres needs.

Sarah Gonzalez / StateImpact Florida Tonya Whitlock and her son Tres, 17, say they have not been able to get Tres into Pivot Charter School near Tampa. Tres has cerebral palsy, and the family said the charter school is concerned they cannot provide all the services Tres needs. This month, an investigation by StateImpact Florida revealed [...]

MDC School Board Member: Charter School Turned Away My Daughter Because Of Autism

Our recent story on the difficulties students with severe disabilities have found trying to enroll in charter schools has drawn plenty of reaction from parents in similar situations. Just 14 percent of Florida charter schools enroll students with profound disabilities. More than half of district schools enroll similar students. We heard from parents, such as [...]

Cashing In On Kids: Investigations Raise Questions About Florida Charter Schools

New investigations by the Miami Herald and StateImpact Florida raise serious concerns about Florida’s charter schools – including who’s profiting from them, and whether they are serving kids with severe disabilities. That’s the topic of a one-hour radio special, “Cashing in on Kids,” by WLRN/Miami Herald News in conjunction with StateImpact Florida and WUSF Public [...]

How Academica Became The Biggest Name In Florida Charter Schools

South Florida charter school management firm Academica has built a successful network of high-performing charter schools. The company has also built a profitable real estate portfolio. That’s the findings from part two of the Miami Herald‘s three-part investigation of Florida charter schools.

Coming Soon: Our Big Charter School Investigation

Update: Here’s a link to the story. For the past three months, StateImpact Florida has been working on an investigation of charter schools. Wednesday morning, the truth comes out — both here and on NPR’s Morning Edition. The question: How many of Florida’s charter schools serve children with severe disabilities? Here’s a hint: surprisingly few. [...]

About StateImpact

StateImpact seeks to inform and engage local communities with broadcast and online news focused on how state government decisions affect your lives.
Learn More »

Economy
Education