Lawmakers are seen at the Capitol’s House floor on Jan. 12, 2022 in Denver at the start of Colorado’s General Assembly’s 2022 session. (Olivia Sun, The Colorado Sun)

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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.


Erica Meltzer is Bureau Chief of Chalkbeat Colorado, where she also covers the legislature and statewide education issues. Erica was a founding editor of the local news site Denverite. Before that, she covered everything from housing and energy...