Charters=solution but can dump Special Ed students & serve ~1% ELL?
The argument for Renaissance charters has been that they're serving the exact same student population in the same building and neighborhood. I guess until they don't want to anymore?
SRC hears questions about charter role | Philadelphia Public School Notebook
At the previous Great Schools Compact meeting it was noted that charters serve English Language Learners at a rate of 3.3% which is less than the district's average of 8.1% with the implication that charters are working hard to improve this. During Monday's SRC meeting, this came out:
The school, Clymer, in North Philadelphia, was turned over to Mastery Charter Schools last fall. The April 2011 SRC resolution authorizing Mastery's contract, which Roccia-Meier brought to the meeting, specifies that Mastery must maintain the multi-disability classes in the current school year but does not have to continue the program in 2012-13. Roccia-Meier told the SRC that those students with severe disabilities would be forced back into District-managed schools.
In a post-meeting interview, Thomas Darden, who oversees charters for the District, acknowledged that Mastery had been authorized to discontinue two multi-disability classrooms next fall at Clymer, where he said the high cost of serving those students could have impacted the turnaround effort at the school.
SRC hears about struggle to maintain continuity in ELL programs | Philadelphia Public School Notebook
I don't want to be seen as the PS anti-charter lady (because I'm not though some may not believe this) but the above raises some serious issues about charterization being viewed as "the solution" to ails of the district. Especially if the charter population is to expand from 25% to 40% in the next five years as the PSD and SRC are projecting.
Some charter schools were set up to serve immigrant students, but among the rest, only 1 percent of students get ELL services.
As a special ed person, this is extremely upsetting to me. Whenever, I hear the term "school choice" I immediately think of special ed students who don't have the same choices. I know all too well how expensive these classes are. We are mandated by a federal law to provide the services but are not receiving adequate funding to cover the costs.
Right now, I have some special ed kids in a charter school who are going to high school next year. But where?? Their charter company has no high school placement for them (they have a high school but it doesn't have that kind of class) so they're being sent back to the district. Saves lots of money for the charter company.
I'm studying special education right now and the fact that Clymer is allowed to discontinue this program is just wrong. For a charter school to discontinue a program for high-needs special ed students which was present at the previous public school is cherry picking. It would be a different situation if say, a neighborhood public school had special ed services for students with learning disabilities and emotional/behavioral disorders and when a charter took over the traditional public school, the charter continued these programs. Then, a child with severe disabilities from the neighborhood came to the charter and the charter said they would have to transfer this child because they could not serve this child. This situation is understandable because what the traditional public school likely would have transferred this child to a school with the necessary services, so the charter school is acting no different than the public school would have. Both the charter and traditional public school at the same location would have sent the child to a school in the District with an appropriate program. However, what Mastery Clymer is doing is different from what the Clymer traditional public school did. This discrepancy is a serious issue, in my opinion.
This situation is unfortunate, but hardly surprising. There have been multiple studies done by school districts, states and academic researchers showing that charters enroll proportionally less, special ed and ELL students than their traditional public school peers. As long as those responsible for enforcing Title VI and IDEA turn a blind eye to what's going on, charters will continue to shuffle students to traditional public schools when they can. I'm not generally not a proponent of going to court to resolve issues such as this. However, in this instance I think it's the only realistic means of requiring charters to comply with federal regs at a level comparable to traditional public schools. As Old Mama noted, there are all sorts of unfunded mandates in the federal regs. Until someone intervenes forcefully, charters are going to continue to unload the financial burden associated with those unfunded mandates when they can.
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