Children’s Law Center executive director Judith Sandalow testified before DC’s Public Charter School Board regarding the proposed special education audit policy. Read a summary below of her full written testimony.
As public schools educing a large percentage of DC students, the charter schools need to be prepared to education all students. The audit policy focuses the charter school community’s attention on special education and school discipline. Each charter is unique and their special education services vary widely. While some Children’s Law Center clients have had very positive experiences at charter schools, many other clients have negative experiences with charter schools that do not seem to feel it is their responsibility to educate students in need of special education services. More often than not, it seems charters are ill-equipped to provide the specialized services that students need and their teachers are not properly trained. This is especially true for students with social-emotional disabilities.
Simiarly, charter schools suspend and expel students at varying rates. Together, thousands of charter students are suspended and expelled annually. Our own experience and national data show that suspension and expulsion policies are rarely applied fairly and evenly, and are borne disproportionately by minority students and students with disabilities. Research says that frequent suspensions are often used as a tool to push out low-achieving students or those with challenging behavior.
Children’s Law Center supports the plan to analyze the data from schools to ensure special education students are being treated fairly and appropriately. Overall, the proposed policy is a positive way to begin looking more closely at which schools are enrolling a particularly low number of special education students and which schools are disciplining these students more harshly than their non-special education peers. A few suggested changes were submitted to the board.