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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 11/21/19

Excluding Special Education

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"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, participation in any admissions or attendance lottery, or pre-enrollment event or process, or as a condition of admission or enrollment."

- GHCS Charter

"504 and IEP documents are not required to enroll. However, providing these documents will assist GHCHS in providing a continuity of services."

- GHCS Enrollment Form

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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:

Carl Petersen Addresses The Special Education Committee What has been the effect on students with special education needs as the charter industry tightens its grip on the LAUSD?
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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, t oday, 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.

(Jackie Goldberg: It is 7.7%)

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Carl Petersen is a father of five, including two daughters who are on the autism spectrum. His involvement in education issues began when the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) refused to provide services that his daughters' teachers (more...)

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