Excluding Special Education

Carl J. Petersen
Nov 19 · 5 min read
Image By California Teachers Association

- GHCS Charter

- GHCS Enrollment Form

The headline event at the second meeting of Scott Schmerelson’s LAUSD Special Education Committee was a presentation on CTA’s State of Denial Report. This study provides empirical evidence of what has long been alleged by opponents of the privatization of public education — charter schools serve a lesser percentage of students with special education needs. This is especially true of children who have needs that require greater support and more expensive accommodations. An analysis of data for three of California’s largest school districts shows that “students with the highest needs were concentrated in district schools.

The representatives of the California Charter School Association and several charter schools spoke before the committee to defend these publicly funded private schools. However, they did not refute the data uncovered by the research. Instead, like the bigot who defends against allegations of his racism by claiming to have a black friend, they cited individual cases where they had served a student with a disability. In one case they bragged about a wheelchair-bound student who walked across the stage “using two of our teachers as crutches” to receive her diploma as if not using her wheelchair was the largest accomplishment of the moment. Additionally, these representatives focused on college acceptance rates and academic achievements, while ignoring the needs of those with intellectual disabilities.

In my opportunity to provide public comment, I addressed the arguments made by the charter school industry along with how the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) has been complicit in the segregation of children with disabilities:

To follow up on some of the previous speakers, when you put “college-ready” in the name of your school, aren’t you automatically saying that there is a certain population who does not belong here?

This problem with the under-enrollment of children with special education needs in charter schools: the district is allowing it. For example, for a couple of years, I have been bringing up the case of Granada Hills Charter High School.

As a result of the Chanda Smith court case, the Independent Monitor found that if a charter school asks for an IEP in an enrollment application, that discourages parents of children with disabilities from applying. Therefore, as part of the District Required Language (DLR) the charter for the school states that the Charter School shall not request or require submission of a student’s IEP, Section 504 Plan, or any other record or related information prior to admission”. Yet, Granada Hills Charter Hills Charter High School, today, in three different places on the neighborhood application says that they are going to ask for the IEP. They get around it by saying on the application that “After you enroll we are going to ask for it”, but they are still asking the question before the child has been enrolled. The Charter School Division allows it. I have been bringing it to this board for over two years. Nothing has been done. They are breaking the rules, and yet it is allowed to continue.

Not surprisingly, Granada has a lower percentage of children with special education needs than was even found for the average charter school. It is a conversion charter school so it is supposed to be serving the neighborhood. They should have exactly the same percentage as the surrounding public schools. Yet, while the district schools in the area have student populations where at least 15% of those enrolled have special education needs, in Granada less than 10% of students receive these services.

Graphic by the California Teachers Association

(Jackie Goldberg: It is 7.7%)

On other subjects, Dr. McKenna you often talk about how when you were a principal you were waiting with the students who were being bussed to other schools. For a lot of children in special education that is still happening. My daughters spend a lot of time on a bus every day. That is also something that we have to consider. We are consolidating in areas that are not really centralized.

To follow up on the first speaker, Lisa Mosko used some of her time to try to get her place on this committee. I don’t think that we need Nick Melvoin’s Speak Up represented on this committee. Her answer, or non-answer, about the El Dorado SELPA (Special Education Local Plan Area) proved why. When asked why some charters have chosen El Dorado over LAUSD’s SELPA, she disparaged the district for their results. However, she did not mention that the reason these charters are signing with El Dorado is that the cost is cheaper. El Dorado is known for providing fewer services. A lot of their clients are the Independent Study charters who are now in the news for not properly serving their students. And El Dorado is statewide. How is that a local area?

Carl Petersen is a parent, an advocate for students with special education needs, an elected member of the Northridge East Neighborhood Council and was a Green Party candidate in LAUSD’s District 2 School Board race. During the campaign, he was endorsed by the Network for Public Education (NPE) Action and Dr. Diane Ravitch called him a “strong supporter of public schools.” His past blogs can be found at www.ChangeTheLAUSD.com. Opinions are his own.

Age of Awareness

Stories providing creative, innovative, and sustainable changes to the education system

Carl J. Petersen

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Parent, special education advocate and former LAUSD School Board candidate. Still fighting for the children. www.ChangeTheLAUSD.com

Age of Awareness

Stories providing creative, innovative, and sustainable changes to the education system

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