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Charter schools enrolled a lower percentage of students with disabilities than traditional public schools, according to a federal Government Accountability Office report released today.
Nationally, about 11 percent of students enrolled in traditional public schools were students with disabilities in 2009-10, the GAO says. About 8 percent of students enrolled in charter schools were students with disabilities.
In Ohio’s “big 8″ urban districts, where charter schools are concentrated, about 19 percent of students enrolled in traditional public schools in 2010-11 had disabilities. That’s compared to about 17 percent of those enrolled in charter schools.
The GAO says there are several reasons why charter schools may enroll smaller percentages of students with disabilities:
- For example, charter schools are schools of choice, so enrollment levels may differ because fewer parents of students with disabilities choose to enroll their children in charter schools.
- In addition, some charter schools may be discouraging students with disabilities from enrolling.
- Further, in certain instances, traditional public school districts play a role in the placement of students with disabilities in charter schools. In these instances, while charter schools participate in the placement process, they do not always make the final placement decisions for students with disabilities.
- Finally, charter schools’ resources may be constrained, making it difficult to meet the needs of students with more severe disabilities.
Often, the differences between traditional public schools and charter schools are particularly stark when it comes to students with severe disabilities, our colleagues at StateImpact Florida found. They write:
… 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.”