Tight budgets are a reality for many school districts across California, leading some to believe that a growing charter sector is squeezing the finances of traditional school districts. One common criticism of charter schools centers on special education: charter schools directly serve fewer students with disabilities, and thereby drive disproportionate costs to traditional school districts.
While it is true that charter schools in California enroll fewer students with disabilities, though only at a marginally lower rate than traditional public schools, this argument is too simplistic. In reality, the way special education finance works in California affects schools of all types, and underinvestment in special education services from federal and state levels shifts costs to the local level. It also overlooks the ways charters, and other schools, contribute to the education of students with disabilities, including students they do not enroll.
"California's Special Education Funding System Creates Challenges and Opportunities for District and Charter Schools" looks at several features of California’s special education funding system which make it difficult for districts to serve students with disabilities and limit the ability of some charter schools to make decisions about the programs and services they offer for students with disabilities.