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Students with disabilities, charter schools, enrollment, school funding, traditional public school, resource needs


The subject of public charter schools and students with disabilities is both important and sensitive. These students have the potential to benefit greatly from the smaller size and specialized focus of many public charter schools, but questions persist regarding whether all or even most charters are as receptive to enrolling students with disabilities as they are to serving students who do not have disabilities. Furthermore, do differences in enrollment of students with disabilities explain differences in funding between the two sectors? To shine a brighter light on this vital question, we have conducted a careful study of the funding surrounding the education of students with disabilities in public charter schools using data from fiscal year 2018 in 18 cities where charters hold a substantial share of K-12 education enrollment. This report provides a summary of our findings. Additional details regarding how special education services are provided to students with disabilities in each of our 18 cities are provided in a separate Appendix of City Snapshots. As public schools, charter schools must adhere to the same federal legal requirements as their traditional public school (TPS) counterparts. When charters are their own local education agency (LEA), the charters themselves ultimately are responsible for ensuring that students with disabilities receive the special education and related services and supports to which they are entitled under the law. When charters are part of another LEA, through their home district or state, the other entity is ultimately responsible for providing services to students who have disabilities. These key realities are part of the context of how funding for special education flows to public charter schools across the country.

21-0715F-18-snapshots-appendix.pdf (1186 kB)
Special Education Funding in Charter Schools — 18 City Snapshots