Charter Schools and Special Education


Charter Schools and Special Education: NASDSE Projects and Resources

The charter schools movement began in 1991 with the passage of a law in Minnesota that permitted the formation of charter schools as part of the state public education system. Such laws now exist in 42 states and the District of Columbia and there are more than 5,500 charter schools in operation as of November, 2012. The basic concept of charter schools is to allow increased autonomy in exchange for demonstrating higher academic achievement. Although state charter school laws waive some state and/or local requirements, charter schools must comply with all federal laws and regulations including IDEA, Section 504 and the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.
NASDSE began in the early 1990's advising states about the national charter schools movement and its implications for special education. NASDSE staff member, Eileen Ahearn, has worked extensively to help states and ensure that charter schools have what they need to comply with their special education requirements. This work includes directing three federally funded projects to study and develop resources related to meeting the needs of students with disabilities in charter schools:
  • Project SEARCH — policy research study funded by the U. S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs from 1998 to 2001. Click here to download the Final Report
  • SPEDTACS (Special Education Technical Assistance for Charter Schools) — funded by the U. S. Department of Education’s Charter Schools Program National Initiatives Program to develop a set of Primers on Special Education in Charter Schools and a website based on those documents with added resources to assist authorizers, developers/operators and state officials to understand and work on special education in charter schools. Click here for the Primer website.

In addition, NASDSE worked under a subcontract with the National Charter School Resource Center in 2011-12 to develop two major resources and plan a national conference on special education in charter schools. Links to these resources published in October 2012 are as follows: