It’s segregating kids with disabilities, and letting the charter schools off the hook.
—Parent advocate Karran Harper Royal
The changes happening to schools in New Orleans—the conversion from public to private—has sadly become a prototype for schools across the country. All parents, teachers and taxpayers should be concerned. While charter advocates see charters as miracles, in special education we know they’re not, and New Orleans demonstrates this well.
Here, I am referring to the article by Danielle Dreilinger from The Times-Picayune (where I also got the quote above) describing the special education charter school changes in NOLA since the Southern Poverty Law Center’s (SPLC) recent settlement. It demonstrates well the hypocrisy of charter schools for students with special needs.
These students are the square pegs (I say that admiringly) that can’t fit into the one round hole, and it is why many school reforms don’t work—Common Core, charter schools, and cheap teacher training are examples.
Charter schools promised to do for students, especially poor students, what they claimed public schools failed to do. But what we have seen repeatedly is the selectivity of students in charter schools who are able to march in a straight line—I mean that literally. Real public schools never had any problems working with these students!
While traditional public schools were de-funded and credentialed teachers demoralized, charter schools, with young, fast-tracked teacher temps, many from Teach for America, have been, and are still, hailed as saviors.
In NOLA, however, it has been painfully clear from the beginning that charters were anything but miracle schools.
In 2010, ten students with disabilities from New Orleans filed a class action lawsuit against the almost all-charter school system. These charters had no magic elixir for students with special needs.
Students who could not do the regular classwork (inclusion) were funneled back to one of the few existing traditional public schools. This has been common practice with charter schools. Such rejection of students is not allowed in traditional public schools which must serve every child who walks through the door.
So the miracle that was the NOLA charter industry got in trouble—is being forced to serve students with disabilities—and they will now feature a continuum of services (a variety of special education options) which include Essential Skills!
How utterly hypocritical!
A continuum of services is exactly what has been defunded in traditional public schools—scorned as segregated placement—not the college-for-all ideal!
Many parents with students who have disabilities, who knew their children would have benefited from a continuum of services, and even made it to college with some help, have left traditional public schools to homeschool.
Charter schools are now simply repackaging themselves with the special education services that were destroyed in the traditional public schools…a continuum of services! What’s missing is inclusion!
Watch for more segregated charter schools for dyslexia, gifted, and students with autism. Also look for a charter replacement of a psychiatric adolescent hospital! That should be interesting.
I’m guessing what you won’t find is qualified teachers, or any real miracles.