Charter Schools vs. SPED – seems like same accountability as Wall St.

This blog is dedicated to Tres Whitlock in Florida. Due to confidentiality issues, I could only use his name if he and his family chose to come forward with using it.  Thank you Tres for going public!

Sometimes even when you watch a magic trick 100 times, you don’t catch the nuance of what is going on and that is what makes magic cool, fun and exciting. Clearly most of us would rather watch Criss Angel, Cirque Du Soleil, etc. than attend a meeting as our brains enjoy this brief time away from reality.  When the artifice of ‘magic’ is used to balance the books, it is still time away from reality. The difference is what happens on Wall St. and in schools should not be ‘magical’ and should not require hundreds of observations to understand. REIT’s, reverse whatevers, funky non-descript mutual funds,  Ponzi Schemes and so forth should not be allowed and yet Wall St. persists in just finding new and different ways to develop mysterious/magical money-making behavior. Alas, so do charter schools.  The magic is in just making something tricky enough to over-ride logic in the brain.  On Wall St. people merely lose money – in charter schools, children lose an education. There is a fair degree of difference.

This morning on NPR I listened to and then read about a  bit of ‘magic’ in  some Mimi-Dade, Florida charter schools and then decided to match up my own past experiences.  I have complained about the absence of special ed services at charter schools since I taught at one and the ‘magical’ absence of services did not appeal to me (my undergrad is speech pathology).  When I addressed the discrepancy (sorry, confidentiality rules do not allow me to use the child’s name), my principal was upset but tried to explain it as a kink that would later get fixed and for now, just focus on test scores. You catch the drift of the experience.

I looked up the NPR piece first and then decided to just do a random search to see if the topic was being covered in the news beyond NPR. NPR is an arbiter of high quality journalism so I always look to support the research and appeal to as many people as possible.

NPR had some interesting information based on some interesting people who had been interviewed.

The Florida Department of Education, citing privacy concerns, declined to provide statewide data of students with severe disabilities. But the agency said their analysis shows 86 percent of charter schools statewide had no students with severe disabilities.

It’s a trend repeated in California, Louisiana, New York and Texas, according to researchers from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Harvard University researcher Thomas Hehir calls it a “pattern of exclusion” among charter schools nationally. Hehir was the top special education official during the Clinton administration and played a leading role in rewriting the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

He says it comes down to money.

“That is unfortunately what we find in altogether too many places,” Hehir said. “I think that there is a disincentive to enroll these kids because they cost more money to educate.”

The Miami Herald had more and different details:

My look at gave another view. I was looking to see if all the SPED services necessary were being provided to students at charter schools in my area. I know that SPED services are lacking in all the regular public schools, however, the regular public schools educate everyone.   It would seem some one should be monitoring the charter schools in my area and declining payment as was done in Miami-Dade yet the lobbying group named Florida Consortium of Public Charter Schools does not believe money should be denied for non-compliance.  This is called the joy of magical thinking without repercussions.

Without these monthly payments, the charter schools will likely struggle to  keep the doors open, said Lynn Norman Teck, a spokeswoman for the Florida  Consortium of Public Charter Schools, a lobbying group and membership  association. She said some Florida charter schools have had compliance issues in  the past, but continued receiving their monthly checks.

“The consortium wants its member schools to do things right,” she said. “But  we don’t feel that funds should be withheld.”

Read more:  14 December 2011  10:25 AM viewing

SPED open positions with Aspire Public Schools in bay area of N. Ca:

12/7/2011 full-time SPED teacher mild/moderate,  full-time speech pathologist, part-time SPED teacher mild/moderate, 12/6/2011 SPED instructional assistant, 8/2/2011  counseling intern  14 December 2011  10:25 AM viewing

SPED position with KIPP in bay area of N. Ca:

12/6/2011 director of SPED  14 December 2011  10:25 AM viewing

SPED position with Leadership Public Schools in bay area of N. Ca:

10/27/2011 RSP teacher

In Tres’ case, he needs supervision to attend to bodily functions and is cognitively able to perform and function.  He may seem to be on the outer ‘extreme’ of SPED and yet the reality is that charter schools have a special loophole to deny any SPED kid an education (quotes are from NPR):

But there’s a loophole. Where special education students attend school is determined by their Individual Education Plan (IEP). That plan is developed by the student, parents, school officials and therapists.

The IEP team won’t send that student to a charter school that isn’t set up to serve disabled students.

School districts design a systemic plan to educate students with disabilities. Charter schools do not. Their solution is often to refer students back to the traditional public schools — as happened to Tres Whitlock.

If parents choose to decline the IEP, a child can and often does go to a charter school because charter schools have a habit of marketing their magical miracles.  In my experience, SPED students had ‘modified’ IEP’s…..which is kind of like a modified REIT on Wall St.

No, education for ‘all’ in charter schools is not equal nor fair but it is magical (thinking).  When the data is evaluated on an even playing field, even the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is able to observe the disparity.

NB: Charter schools are public, not for profit (unless noted as for profit) corporations. They must abide by all local, state and federal education laws and they receive ADA (our tax dollars) to run. Charter schools may do fund-raising and write grants, however this does not make them a magnet school or preclude them to be selective in the students which attend.  Since charter schools do not educate ‘all types’ of children, they are not actually public schools. Charter schools complain as they must rely on district resources so they are not able to comply due to being a small school, etc……if they can not measure up to being a public school and serve all students, they should not be called a public school, no matter how they market themselves.

Update on 2 April 2012:   please read to end to see details regarding SPED students.