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MYTH: Charter Schools Do Not Accept Children With Special Needs

A parent of a special needs child enrolled in a public charter school plays "myth buster" by stating the facts about how charter schools enroll children.

It doesn’t seem to matter whether you’re in Atlanta or further out-state—people with titles have perpetuated the myth that charter schools do not accept children with special needs.

FACT: My special needs child is enrolled in a charter school.

Myth busted.

Not only did Coweta Charter Academy at Senoia (sister school to Cherokee Charter Academy) accept my child legally through the lottery system, but they are doing an exceptional job of working with him and with me to provide the best learning environment and the best learning opportunities for him. I couldn’t be happier.

Here’s how the enrollment process works. By law, all public schools have to accept all children, including children with disabilities, and charter schools are public schools. Because space in charter schools is often limited, they enroll students based on a lottery system. This means that students are chosen at random (usually by a computer) until all the open seats are filled. Any remaining students are put on a waitlist so that if a parent chooses not to accept the spot, the spot will be offered to the next student on the waitlist.

Children with special needs are included in this process just like all other students, and the school does not know whether a child has special needs until he or she is actually enrolled in the school. It is against the law for the school to discriminate.

I am being vocal about the charter amendment for two reasons:

1. I am extremely happy with our charter school. If the school were not doing a good job, I’d be homeschooling and keeping quiet.

2. I hear other special needs parents here in Georgia and across the country talk about their struggles with traditional public schools. There are a lot of individual stories of frustration, and of success, but the bottom line is that the school designated by residence may not be the right school for the child. As parents of special needs children, we need choices.

If you are really concerned about children with special needs, then you will advocate for school choice, which includes charter schools. For children of special needs, vote “Yes” on November 6th.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Cheryl Krichbaum October 17, 2012 at 03:54 PM
Let's not pretend that any school -- traditional or charter -- provides all services to all kids to best meet their individual needs, whether because of enrollment or because of educational techniques/IEPs/etc. They don't. They may be required to, but they don't. To meet the needs of kids, whether with disabilities, medical issues, or no issues, we need choices -- school choice. Choice is limited here in Georgia. Passing the amendment provides more choice. I do not have the same choices if the amendment is voted down because I don't have full funding for my child. My child would be 60% funded whereas the child next door would be 100% funded. As for Charters USA, they are the best! I am so very happy with them, too. The criticism they have received for facilitating quality education at a more affordable price than what the traditional schools can do just baffles me. I have no problem with a company being mindful of profit. In my experience in working for for-profit companies and government agencies, for-profit companies are far less wasteful. In addition, without the amendment, the current process of getting State Dept of Education approval is in danger of being shut down because of the 4-3 GA Supreme Court decision. That opens the State DOE to litigation. That does NOT benefit my children or anyone else's.
Jim Beam October 18, 2012 at 03:52 AM
No More bullies, your attempted point was about services. You even use the word "underSERVED" in your failed attempt. If charters were able to spend the per-child $$$ that the traditional public schools are, they'd have busing. As for the 'full spectrum of special needs services', the TPS model doesn't have those either. I know of several parents with special needs children who complain constantly how their child is basically ignored in their public school and "being taught nothing". The TPS model may be accepting any child, (though that's not true either) but they're not providing the full-spectrum of special-needs services to their spec-ed children. I don't think the solution for special-needs children lies within the TPS model to be honest. That model has got enough work cut out for it just providing remedial education for non-spec-ed kids...and it's not doing a bang-up job at that in too many counties across GA and America. If our public schools are barely providing remedial skills for millions of college-bound students (http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-09-11/college-is-no-place-for-remedial-education.html), they're certainly going to have problems teaching spec-ed children. Throwing more money at this failed model won't help - We need to come up with a new model as the # of spec-ed students grows. Neither a NO nor YES vote to 1162 will change that reality but a YES vote at least gives hope to parents of spec-ed children trapped in failing schools.
John Konop October 22, 2012 at 11:14 AM
I am glad this has worked out well for your child. The macro question is charter schools argue that they provide a cheaper eduction. When you normalize for services in Cherokee County the charter school cost more. I have talk with many pro amendment people who think it is ok because if they get what they want than it is ok. The debate on this point is should our schools provide AP classes, transportation, all special needs services, sports, band........? The pro charter amendment people leave this out of their budget when comparing themselves to public schools. Let's all get real about the debate.
Cheryl Krichbaum October 30, 2012 at 05:31 PM
John, Thank you for your comment. I love the real discussion about charter schools. For me, the real debate is about whether we're going to provide more choice for our children or whether we're going to insist that one size fits all. If a school is not working for a child, the parent should have the option to find a school that will work. We need more choices. Many local school districts are not interested in providing more choices, as evidenced by good applications being turned down.
Frank Jones October 30, 2012 at 06:39 PM
Good applications bring turned down is a subjective statement. Quantitative analysis that charters more often perform worse or the same as traditional schools is fact backed by evidence. We need to leave the, "i believe" out of this debate and look at the facts. Facts are that as a whole, charters are not the solution for improving education for all children.


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