Special Education in New Orleans: Juggling Flexibility, Reinvention, and Accountability in the Nation's Most Decentralized School System

January 2015

While many charter school leaders across the country grapple with how to best provide and pay for special education, New Orleans recently became the first city in the nation to tackle special education on the fiscal, human capital, and program fronts in the context of a full-choice public education landscape. Over time, it may offer scalable solutions to other cities. We conducted a preliminary analysis of the city’s efforts to make finance and enrollment policies more equitable, create citywide financial supports for the highest cost students, boost special education teachers’ and leaders’ capacity, and foster program innovation and offer grants to help create or scale-up programs to best serve high-needs students. While progress has been made, much work remains. Looking ahead, we identify key questions that require further study.