…for one reason charters seem to perform so well: they turn away kids with special needs.  Like this one (Recovery School District) in New Orleans. (Props to blogger Caroline Grannan and to The NewsHour [mainstream media no less!] for bringing it to light.)

A question of exclusion

JOHN MERROW: District-wide data indicate that (Paul) Vallas (Superintendent of the Recovery School District) has a problem. The average special education population in traditional schools is 12 percent, but at charter schools, it’s less than 8 percent.

Are your charter schools somehow excluding special needs kids?

PAUL VALLAS: No. No, not at all. Charters are generally much smaller than regular, traditionally run schools. You know, so charters may not have the capacity to have the various special education specialties like the speech therapists, et cetera. A parent’s going to ask, “Do you have these services?” And if a charter doesn’t have those services, the parent’s going to look for another school.

KARRAN HARPER ROYAL, Parent Advocate: That’s discrimination. That’s discrimination. You can dress it up however you like to, but it’s really discrimination.

JOHN MERROW: Parent advocate Karran Harper Royal has a child with special needs attending a New Orleans public school. She says Vallas needs to slow down.

KARRAN HARPER ROYAL: He needs to appoint a staff person or a few staff people who review the admissions of these charter schools, because clearly something is going wrong here. I want to see objective evaluation of the charters we have before we move forward with trying to charter everything.

JOHN MERROW: Aren’t you asking an awful lot? This is early in the game.

KARRAN HARPER ROYAL: I’m not asking an awful lot; we’re talking about our children. I have a child in this system. Why would I want less from a charter board than I would expect from a school board?

JOHN MERROW: While Vallas admits to no wrongdoing, he promises to hold charters accountable.

PAUL VALLAS: As more of our schools convert to charters and as more of our schools are granted charter-like independence, we’re going to be doing more policing, we’re going to focus more on accountability. If you are deliberating discouraging people or turning people away, that would be breach of contract. You can lose your charter.

JOHN MERROW: Nationwide, the percentage of charter schools is about 5 percent, a far cry from Vallas’ 54 percent. In the coming years, both numbers are expected to grow substantially and, as they do, there’s sure to be more debate about their effectiveness, as well as calls for more regulation.

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