The state of New York discovered that special needs students are not enrolling in charter schools as much as they are in public schools, and immediately thought that the charter schools were to blame. However, A study  by the Manhattan Institute and the Center on Reinventing Public Education (CRPE) found that students with disabilities are less likely to enroll in charter schools.
Charter schools tend to reclassify special needs students out of the program. This reclassification helps explain at least 80% of recent growth in this gap, while the other 20% was due to students transferring between charter and public schools. When more general education students enter elementary education, their entrance automatically reduces the proportions of special needs students in comparison to the general population. It is not, as some alleged, a decrease in the enrollment of students with disabilities.
But, there is a lot of mobility among special needs students and it does not depend on whether they attend public or charter schools. According to the study, a third of charter school students who receive special education leave their charter school by their fourth year, while a third of public school students who receive similar services leave before their fourth year.
The study also saw an increase in Individualized Education Programs (IEP, or the special education program) over time in the group of special needs students in both charter and public schools. The overall change in both schools for IEP students was 1.2 percent.
And, adding to that, more students with disabilities apply to public schools over charter schools. For example, in the 2009-9 year, 12.6% of students who applied to public schools had special needs while 5.7% of the students who applied to charter schools had such needs. Even though the percentage of special needs students increases over time to 2012-13, it is still less than the amount of students with special needs who apply to public schools with an average difference of 7.625% between public and charter schools.
Spencer Irvine is a staff writer at Accuracy in Academia.
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