Disability rights group calls for stricter reauthorization process for Chicago charter schools

Photo of a school building
Charter schools should comply with federal law

Equip for Equality sent an open letter to the Chicago Public School District on March 16, urging a more thorough review of the city’s charter schools compliance with federal disability laws when it reviews the schools’ charters.

“Many schools in our charter system welcome and serve students with disabilities, but not all do,” the letter stated. “We encourage CPS to make critical enhancements to its reauthorization review…and to fully examine the experience of all students and especially students with disabilities.

“Schools that are not open to or do not serve students with disabilities should have no place in our public education system.”

The letter reviews data from the city’s 45 charter school being considered for renewal at the end of the 2015 and 2016 school years. CPS reexamines the school’s governing charters every five years.

Equip for Equality found that charter schools consistently enrolled a lower percentage of students with disabilities than public schools. The disparity is most pronounced at the elementary school level, where 9.5 percent of students at the 45 charter schools are considered to have disabilities, as opposed to 12.5 percent in the rest of the public school system.

In addition, students with disabilities are also suspended and expelled at a significantly higher rate. While overall about 12 percent of students received special education services, 26.2 percent of all expulsions involve students with disabilities.

The letter recommends that Chicago Pubic School District carefully review the data and admissions policies at each school, ensure they have nondiscrimination statements, and mandate the inclusion of additional disability related services in the school’s charter contracts upon renewal.

“We are very explicit that we are not for or against any charter school,” Charlie Wysong, Equip for Equality’s attorney, told the Chicago Sun Times, adding that the group is “just making sure CPS is going a good job in examining these schools.”

In May 2014, the Obama Administration released the first-ever federal civil rights guidance on charter schools.

Equip for Equality and Disability Rights Washington, which operates this Galaxy website, are part of the federally funded protection and advocacy system and members of the National Disability Rights Network.