Special Education Confidential


Lisa Snell, the director of education studies at Reason Public Policy Institute, has released a new report on how charter schools provide excellent special education for their charges. Perhaps first and foremost, she found that charters, especially in California, actually reduce the number of kids designated as needing special ed. She also found that school districts are keeping a good chunk of the cash they're supposed to be forking over to the charters.

The whole report is here. And here's an LA Daily News story on it.


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  1. The special ed angle is one of the "damning" arguments consistently used by charter foes wherever they are established. More and more evidence contrary to this assumption that charters are incapable of handling special ed students comes forward as charters become more accepted and widespread, debunking yet another anti-charter tactic.

    While charters are not a silver bullet per se, education wonks like myself enjoy and espouse the idea of yet another way to begin restoring choice to parents and accountability to our failed education system.

  2. This ought to be interesting. "Cruel market forces failing to provide appropriate education for difficult students" vs. "Low income and minority kids getting dumped inappropriately into speical ed programs."

  3. Don't worry joe. There is always "Benevolent Public Officials Wave Wands, Poor Students all Go to Harvard".

  4. I'll never forget an email exchange I had with a colleague of mine in the Education department at the college where I work. I asked if she would be interested in working with me to promote our high school math competition among some of the local charter schools (we're in the Indianapolis area, where charters are catching on) and she declined, saying "I don't support charter schools because they take money away from the public schools."

    Umm... charters ARE public schools... and these are the people preparing the next generation of school teachers?! No wonder the school system is the way that it is.

  5. Robert, you're argument is entirely semantic. Is enrollment open to everybody? Are they allowed to screen students?

    I'm not sure where I come down on charter schools, but let's keep the conversation honest.

  6. Joe, the answers to your question are, in nearly all cases, ?yes? and ?no.?

  7. I haven't read the report, but if you spend any time reading the Houston Chronicle you'll wonder if she ever spent time at Houston charter schools. Half are run by ex-cons, and the other half are run by people under indictment for stealing money from the charter schools. Maybe they work when they aren't absolutely corrupt.

  8. Doesn't seem to be such a problem with charter schools out here in Phoenix, steve. Maybe there's something wrong with the water out there in Houston.

  9. Charter schools are awesome. I went to two or three, myself. They were all great. I made friends much easier, and there was a lot less stress due to more emphasis on work at home and less time needed in class (for me, it was often as little as two days). I thought it was the greatest thing ever.

  10. joe,

    I thought you democrats/liberals were pro-choice. Is it only for abortion, or is there any other issue where you want choice for the people?

  11. The advantage of charter schools is that when there is fraud, the school is closed. In the most notorious case in Houston, the school was closed and the school leaders were arrested. In public districts like Compton and Oakland, the state gives the districts $100 million bailouts and the school leaders go on to new jobs where they help wreck other urban school districts.

    Like all areas with robust charter schools, Houston has successful schools and a few failing charter schools. Kipp Academy in Houston is one of the highest performing charter schools in the nation. Ultimately, a school that continues to steal money from its students without providing value will be called out by parents and the media rather than protected by government institutions. This is a harsh system for the few kids who get caught up in the small percentage of bad charters, but it pales in comparison to the whole generations of families that languish in bad public schools.

    Overall, the charter school movement is self-regulating and has low tolerance for those providers that would tarnish the entire charter school movement. Any charter school that fails children will find charter school movement leaders as its harshest critics.

  12. Anybody can attend a charter school, but usually they have to agree to certain conditions: parents, for example, have to agree to provide a place for kids to do their homework, and see that the kids do it. Kids have to agree not to be disruptive or rude in class. In other words, the sort of behaviors which were taken for granted thirty or so years ago.

    If you saw a poor but ambitious kid who was trapped in a hellhole of a public school, racked by huge criminal and disciplinary problems and teachers who were incapable of teaching because they had to spend their time handling the disruptive troublemakers in their classrooms, would you actually be able to look that kid in the eye and say, "You are NOT allowed to leave your hellhole school for a charter school where you'd have a chance to get a good education, because if you leave, the hellhole will get even WORSE?"

    I am far more of a "collectivist" than the average Reason poster, but there is no way in hell I could look at ANY individual and say "You must sacrifice your chance of success on the altar of the Greater Perceived Good."

  13. "... the Greater Perceived Good."

    Yeah baby.

    To coin a phrase, these days it takes a village to raise an idiot.

  14. When someone says "It takes a village", then I allwasy reply "ask everyone in the village first".

    The State should provide NO tax money or vouchers. Only let parents take out (state) loans to pay for their childrens tuition, so most parents don't treat them as just subsidised childcare.

  15. Rob - Ideally, yes. Make people pay for what they use.

    But in the meantime, if the STATE must provide education, I would be happy if they were to give me the money to use as I see fit. I will glady exercise my "pro-choice" then.

  16. Joe, Joe, Joe have you not heard of the top NYC PUBLIC schools with mind-cracking entrance exams? Are they open to everyone? NO, unless you're very smart and hard working. Do they screen? YES, but not the teachers, unfortunately, that's based on seniority.

    It's not semantics. Let's be honest and say that there is no measure by which the public school system status quo, on the whole, is a success for anyone, let alone the poor.

    Yank on your ponytail and get your head out of your ass. This is hardly a partisan subject, unless, of course, you're counting on the DNC to recruit among the mentally impoverished kids streaming out of our schools. If that's the case, by all means keep their minds in shackles. Just be honest about it.

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