As you probably know by now, if you have been following my OpEds (again, fawningly, I say “Thank you!”), I read a lot. I make it a habit to survey as many articles and blogs in re educational issues each week as possible. In scanning the updates a report by the Huffington Post caught my eye today.
“Charter Schools Fall Short On Students With Disabilities” was the headline. 1) The author Joy Resmovits was reporting on a meeting in Minneapolis that brought together many diverse people who were celebrating the charter school movement’s 20 year anniversary. She cites some interesting data.
A recent study by the Government Accountability Office (GAC) has found that charter schools do not enroll special needs students at the same rate as public schools. 2) This is not news to teachers in the public sector, the report only serves to quantify the discrepancy. Overall the report says, charter schools enroll exceptional education students at 8% while exceptional educational students in public schools represent 11% of their populations.
Exceptional education as defined in our district includes both what has been known as Special Education and Gifted Education. If you google (when exactly did that become a verb? How does one conjugate ‘to google’?) ‘exceptional education’ you will get citations for both. I am of the opinion that Ms. Resmovits’ article refers mostly to those students with developmental delays or disabilities. I digress, there is a much bigger problem here.
The government report does not fully address the issue. In the last school year there were several students attending charter schools who accessed services from my own school. Our psychologist was responsible, upon request, for evaluations of charter school students if they lived in our school’s enrollment area. Other services were also provided by our public school district to charter school students as needed.
I am not against this. Also I see nothing wrong with the fact that charter schools are less likely to take special needs students than public schools even though by law they are supposed to take everyone.
Simply stated, charter schools do not have the base of resources that public schools have. Certain children require specific classrooms, ongoing therapy and consistent evaluation beyond the normal curriculum in order to be successful. Only our public schools have all these resources available, as they must by law. Charter schools are able to access those resources but maintenance of all the necessary specialists, resources and materials adequate to accommodate each student would be a daunting task for any charter school system, no matter how competent they are as an educational institution.
Think of that the next time you want to rail against the waste of resources in public schools. Public schools are maintained so that no matter who walks through the door they can be educated to the best of their abilities. Public schools do not cull out students who are unable to maintain normal progress, they do not refuse to serve the specific needs of any student and they do not call upon some other agency to provide the educational services that any single child might require.
Public schools take everyone, and they educate them. If I was a parent of a child with special needs for their educational growth, I would want my child to be in the best possible learning environment.
I am not an apologist. Is there waste in the public schools system? Of course there is! Way too much of it, I might add. But is there waste in our federal government, our state legislature, Tucson City Parks and Recreation, Mr. Kim’s JerryBob restaurant or my grandson’s breakfast plate this morning? Unfortunately, yes, there is. But that inherent waste does not imply that any of these institutions should cease to be supported. I will give my grandson breakfast again tomorrow no matter how much he leaves behind today.
There is waste all around us and we should be trying to limit waste of valuable resources. But our children are our MOST valuable resource and they should not be short-changed because we are concerned we might waste money. It is money. I will balance the future of my children and grandchildren against the monetary cost incurred by providing the best education possible, any day of the week.
In fact, let’s do that.