Does Mulgrew Live Here?
Michael Mulgrew, the president of the United Federation of Teachers in New York City, came out in opposition to the state Board of Regents position to raise the state charter school cap. What's a few hundred million dollars to New York anyway?
Not every Regent is an ardent charter supporter, but they understand that a charter cap lift is an important criteria for the state's Race to the Top application and the critical funds it would generate for the state.
Would Mr. Mulgrew rather see New York State risk losing this money for failure to raise the cap and enact other education reforms? Both the Daily News and Gotham Schools report that Mulgrew opined that the charter cap shouldn't be raised until charter schools serve more special education students and students who are limited English proficient.
Mr. Mulgrew, call your office. Your own charter, the UFT Charter School in Brooklyn, has little more than a whopping 1 percent of its students as limited English proficient. This is a good school and I don't believe for a moment there is anything awry. The issues of LEP and special education students in charters are more complicated than a soundbite, including a hypocritical soundbite.
Existing Law Sufficient - Enforce It
Charter schools have varying percentages of special education students and LEP students -- the same as individual schools within a school district or community school district. The Charter Schools Act requires that charters make "good faith efforts to attract and retain" students with disabilities or who are limited English proficient.
The state Education Department and SUNY Charter Schools Institute are charged with oversight of charter schools which includes enforcing this statue. If any charter schools aren't following this provision, the charter authorizers should do what they do with a charter school that has non-certified teachers beyond the legal limits: admonish, place on corrective action, probation, or whatever appropriate enforcement that is warranted.
The reality is that this issue is more complicated, including districts oversubscribing special ed students (see sped). Many charter schools are not located in areas with English language learners. Charters are schools of choice; parents are not forced to send their children to them. Charter schools do not have their own committees on special education; rather, they are controlled by the district which makes special education determinations. Charter schools also must use operating funds to pay for building space - money that could be used to offer more student services.
Allow "At-Risk" Admission Preference for LEP and Special Ed Students
Despite these strictures on charter schools, many charters in fact serve high percentages of students with disabilities, and educate a growing number of Latino children, including English Language learners. The charter community, authorizers and policymakers should be creative to find ways equip themselves to better serve students of need.
One place to start is for the state Education Department to rethink its opposition to charter schools using the statutory "at-risk" admission preference to favor enrollment of LEP students and special education students. At least several charters have proposed to do this and were barred. Another means to serve more students with need is to allow charter schools to locate at more than one site, in effect, combining multiple sites to a single school that would blend small school settings with economies of scale to offer more special education services and employ more specialists to include dual language instructors.
for The Chalkboard
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