Operations and Oversight Stage
Once a charter school opens and students arrive, your responsibility as authorizer shifts to overseeing the school and holding it accountable for the goals and objectives outlined in the charter. As charter agreements are essentially performance contracts, authorizers are responsible for ensuring that charter operators fulfill their responsibilities articulated in the contract. It is important that each charter school’s specific level of responsibility for special education be included in the charter school accountability plan.
Charter authorizers’ responsibilities for special education related paperwork depend on who the authorizer is in the larger state public education structure (e.g., a state board of education, a local education agency, an appointed board, or other entity). If a charter school is part of an LEA, the charter school and the district may share responsibility for special education paperwork. However, in many cases, charter schools are solely responsible for completing and submitting their own paperwork. Authorizers unsure about their specific responsibilities should contact their state for guidance.
Monitoring is a crucial aspect of an authorizer’s responsibilities with regard to special education. A school’s legal status as either an LEA or a school within an LEA is critical here. An authorizer that is an SEA or an LEA is likely familiar with the federal and state special education monitoring process. The federal Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) monitors every state on its compliance with IDEA requirements. In turn, each state must monitor how its districts comply. Charter schools are held accountable for special education in the same manner as all public schools: they must demonstrate that they comply with IDEA. Each state designs the way it will monitor LEA compliance. For example, state departments of education often send a team to review LEA procedures in order to ensure that LEAs comply with special education legal requirements. Each LEA is reviewed on a regular cycle and a report documenting the findings is issued after the review. The monitored entity must correct any identified compliance violations.
You should consider:
- Compliance with IDEA/Section 504/ADA
- Counseling out students with disabilities
- Change of placement procedures
- Charter school program adaptation and modification
- Assurances to families interested in applying to the school that the charter school welcomes students with disabilities and is prepared to offer reasonable accommodations to children with disabilities who elect to attend the school
- Suspensions and expulsions of students with disabilities
- Informal limits placed on access to the school’s program, such as shortened school day for students with disabilities and in-school suspensions that function as substantive suspensions
- Provision of mandated transportation (as a related service)
- Facilities access measures as needed