This story was originally published by Chalkbeat Colorado. More at chalkbeat.org.
Colorado charter schools serve far fewer students with disabilities than district-run schools do. The gap means those students don’t have access to the same educational opportunities as their peers, and school districts end up serving a larger share of students who require expensive services.
Colorado charter leaders say they’re willing and able to do better — if they have more authority and resources. They’re backing a bill that would let charter networks and groups of schools assume full legal responsibility for educating students with disabilities, as well as take control over state and federal funding that currently flows to school districts.
“Charter schools have simply not had access to the same legal structures that would allow them to serve greater percentages of students with disabilities,” said Dan Schaller, president of the Colorado League of Charter Schools.
House Bill 1294, which received unanimous bipartisan support Thursday in the House Education Committee, is a top priority for the League. Bill sponsor state Rep. Mary Young, a Greeley Democrat and former special education teacher, said the effort represents an evolution on the part of charter schools, though she’s not sure how many ultimately will take on the substantial legal responsibilities involved.
“This bill demonstrates the commitment and interest of some charter schools to participate fully in educating special education students,” she said.