August 13, 2010: As a result of collaborative work with the State Board of Education, California Department of Education, Special Education Local Plan Areas (SELPAs) and districts, charters continue to see increased options that bring with them increased flexibility in funding, governance structure, management, and availability of high-quality programs in order to successfully serve students with special needs.
The charter movement scored a victory when the SBE determined that schools are able to exit their current SELPA and join a new SELPA as Local Education Agency (LEA) members regardless of their geographic location. This decision is a direct reflection of the need for reform in education, namely that the current model for serving students with special needs is broken. With the ongoing increase in costs to serve students with special needs in the traditional public schools, charter schools and their ability to serve all students are uniquely situated to serve as a model of reform.
One result of the State Board's decision was the recent approval of a new Los Angeles County SELPA. The new SELPA option gives charter schools in Los Angeles County the opportunity to seek LEA status for special education, thus giving them the programmatic control over their programs serving students with special needs.
This collaboration will bring the option of using the innovative practices inherent to charter schools, combined with the increased flexibility in the use of funds and oversight, to streamline service delivery to students with special needs. With this increased control and autonomy over their special education programs, charter schools will have the ability to build the infrastructure necessary to ensure the highest quality service to all students with special needs that may enroll in their school. In addition, this option will provide charter schools with a voice in governance and decision-making at the SELPA-level, including key decisions about funding allocation and service delivery.
CCSA members are well aware of, and share in, the Association's prioritization of a high-quality education for students with special needs as essential to charters' transformation of the education landscape in California. CCSA continues to work intensively with members to solve special education challenges, and has identified several short and long-term goals, including increasing the overall number of special education students served in charter schools across the state and increasing the total number of charter schools becoming LEAs for purposes of special education.
The Association commends the actions by the State Board of Education, and by Los Angeles County, as they directly support the mission to reform special education service delivery in order to improve educational outcomes for students with special needs in California charter schools.
Charters interested in seeking LEA status in the Los Angeles County SELPA may submit an application directly to the Los Angeles County Office of Education (LACOE), soon to be available on the LACOE website.