When it comes to special education, Washington charter public schools are setting a high bar, new research shows

Seattle—A recent study conducted by the Center on Reinventing Public Education (CRPE) found that charter schools in Washington state, on average, enroll higher percentages of students with disabilities than the state average — and considerably more than the average for charters nationwide.

Here are the major findings from the CRPE study, which evaluated Washington state charter public school enrollment figures between September 2017 and May 2018:

Charter public schools in Washington are serving high rates of students with disabilities.

Like any other public school, charter schools in Washington are legally bound to provide equitable access to any student that would like to enroll, regardless of background or ability.

Researchers found that not only do all Washington’s charter public schools serve students with disabilities, the vast majority of them serve higher percentages of students with special needs than their local district public schools. Washington’s charter public schools serve special education students with disabilities at a significantly higher rate (16.1 percent) than the national charter schools (10.6 percent) and almost all are doing so at rates higher than the state average (12.4 percent.)

Washington’s charter public schools are serving special education students with a wide range of disabilities.

Washington state charter public schools serve a higher percentage of student with health impairments than the average district school in the state – 34 percent compared to 21 percent.

Washington’s charter public schools are highly inclusive of special education students. Students with disabilities at Washington’s charters are being educated with their peers without disabilities 80 to 100 percent of the day—a much higher rate (30 percentage points) than the state average.

There is no evidence of push out/counseling out of students at Washington’s charter public schools.

In fact, many of the state’s charter public schools see enrollment increases in special education midyear as more students transfer in. Six of ten Washington state public charter schools saw growth in special education enrollment between September 2017 and May 2018. It was also noted that Washington state only provides funding for up to 13.5 percent of special education students which means that charter public schools do not receive additional funding for any additional special education students.

Download the CRPE brief and explore additional coverage in The Seattle Times and The 74.


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