Charter schools differ from public schools in many ways and parents are often confused about them in general and specifically regarding serving children with disabilities. The purpose of Texas charter schools is to: (1) improve student learning; (2) increase the choice of learning opportunities within the public school system; (3) create professional opportunities that will attract new teachers to the public school system; (4) establish a new form of accountability for public schools; and (5) encourage different and innovative learning methods.
The key word is public – if a public Texas charter school is not following federal and state special education rules, it would fall to TEA (Texas Education Agency) to enforce them under the dispute resolution processes. Information on the laws and regulations that Texas charter schools must follow is at http://tea.texas.gov/Texas_Schools/Charter_Schools/Charter_Schools_-_Resources/
On December 28, 2016, the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) and the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS) released a Guidance Package developed to provide parents and the charter school community with information about the rights of charter school students with disabilities.
Students with disabilities who are enrolled in public charter schools, like students with disabilities enrolled in other public elementary or secondary schools, have important rights under two federal laws.
- Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 504)
- Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)
Students with disabilities who seek to enroll in public charter schools or traditional public schools have important rights secured by these two laws.
These documents provide information about how to provide equal opportunities in charter school recruitment, application, admission, enrollment and disenrollment, accessibility, nonacademic and extracurricular activities.
There is a lot of talk recently about charter schools at the national level. It will be some time before we know what, if anything, might change at the national level regarding charter schools. However, it is important to understand the current status of charter schools in Texas.
Since 2005, Texas law has allowed charter schools. They are run by a variety of organizations, including some public schools. They receive state funds based on student attendance like public schools, but do not collect property taxes. They cannot charge tuition, so they have less funds per student than public schools.