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• Sharon Lurye reports that charter schools that are attractive to special education students often have trouble affording the support needed to serve the students because of their small size.
• Should these schools receive extra funding for special education students? How can funders help ensure that special education students get the support they need to thrive?
• Learn more about the challenges of accommodating special education students.
A bubble machine and a table lined with cookies and coloring books welcomed families coming for a midsummer meet-and-greet at Noble Minds Institute for Whole Child Learning, a new charter school in the Carrollton neighborhood. One new student, a 5-year-old boy wearing an eyepatch, seemed scared by the new surroundings; he clung to his father and made noises of distress. This didn’t faze the school director, Vera Triplett, at all.
Noble Minds is the kind of school that takes every kind of child, Triplett said. This approach stands out in this city just three years after local and state school officials settled a lawsuit that alleged massive and systemic discrimination against students with disabilities. The school, whose full name is Noble Minds Institute for Whole Child Learning, offers therapy, yoga, meditation and social-emotional classes to every child. And it does not use suspensions or expulsions as punishment, Triplett said.
The school director believes that therapeutic approach has made the school attractive to families of kids with disabilities that affect their emotions or behavior.
But the challenges of serving a higher-than-average population of children with disabilities can be daunting. A single, small charter school doesn’t have the economies of scale that can make it easier to afford specialists like speech pathologists or sign language interpreters. The first few years after a charter opens, before it has a full student population, are particularly precarious.
Cypress Academy learned that the hard way. In just three years, its special education population ballooned to 26 percent of the student body, according to a letter from parents to the Orleans Parish School Board. The school projected that it would need an additional $600,000 to stay open for another year.
Read the full article about affording special educaiton by Sharon Lurye at The Hechinger Report.