Chart(er)ing their own course

Should charter-school autonomy mean outsourcing services however a school sees fit? Ten schools in the San Diego area say aye. Heretofore, the charters in question were charged per pupil rates (a projected $763 next year) for district-provided special education services. As such, the special-education professionals were hired and deployed by the district--but they were also evaluated by the district and members of its union, not so good if a school has distinctive pedagogical approaches or longer days. So the ten went shopping and found the El Dorado County Consortium Special Education Local Plan Area (SELPA), which will charge them a mere $50 a head for oversight and guidance on special education legislative compliance (membership in such an organization is required by state law) while the schools themselves are responsible for finding, hiring, and maintaining their own special education teachers with the remaining $713. Although critics worry that the direct dispersal of sped funds to schools through SELPA, which is managed by the El Dorado County Office of Education, will disincentivize special education programs, the schools argue that the disposable income will allow them to service even more sped students. And COE's 500 mile distance from San Diego, another critique, can be easily overcome by technology. As Jed Wallace, CEO of the CA Charter School Association explains, it is "completely antithetical to what the charter school movement is all about" to keep special education under district lock-and-key. If these schools can use that $713 more efficiently, they should be given the chance to do so.

"Charters Seek to Run Their Own Ship on Special Education," by Emily Alpert, VoiceofSanDiego.org, May 21, 2009