Special Education Challenges and Opportunities in the Charter School Sector

February 2008

This report explores the various difficulties charter schools face related to educating children with disabilities and examines potential opportunities to address those challenges.

This report begins with a background section on special education in general which serves as a platform to examine issues related to charter schools. Then, based on a review of the limited but growing literature on special education in the charter sector and interviews with key informants knowledgeable about the relevant issues, the report identifies the most pressing challenges charter schools are facing related to educating children with disabilities and outlines potential opportunities to address the challenges.

Key informants represent select state charter school associations, charter school authorizers, education management organizations, private consultants, and resource centers as well as national advocacy organizations. The report synthesizes the challenges and perceived impact the challenges have on the charter school sector and identifies potential policy, research, and investment opportunities that policy leaders should consider in the interest of 1) ensuring that charter schools are a viable option for children with disabilities and 2) capturing the lessons emerging from the charter sector for the benefit of charter and traditional public schools alike.