National Alliance Statement on National Council on Disability’s Report on Charter Schools

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WASHINGTON, D.C. — Yesterday, the National Council on Disability (NCD) released Charter Schools—Implications for Students with Disabilities, a report that examines how public charter schools are serving students with disabilities. The report notes that charter schools serve virtually the same percentage of kids with disabilities as district public schools, at 11 percent and 12 percent respectively.

Charter schools strive to serve all kids—including those with disabilities—and to serve them well.

In fact, according to two reports by the Center for Research on Educational Outcomes at Stanford University in 2013 and 2015, the performance outcomes of students with special needs in charter schools show annual modest to significant gains when compared to their district school peers. Studies across the entire state of Texas and New York City have demonstrated that charter schools have a positive and significant competitive effect on math and reading scores for students with special needs as compared to district schools. Additionally, charter schools in North Carolina produced significant and positive competitive effects for students with special needs when they were compared with district schools with similar grade configurations.

The National Alliance appreciates the research and work the NCD put into producing this new report and closely examining this important issue. As a member of the National Center for Special Education in Charter Schools’ Equity Coalition, the National Alliance is working to ensure best practices regarding special education are shared and there is a continual discussion on special education policy improvement within the charter school movement. 

In the new NCD report, the National Alliance supports the call for strong authorizing to effectively open and manage high-quality schools. We also agree that government policies to reduce barriers to effective practice implementation are critical to the strength of the charter school sector. Finally, we support NCD’s call for increased federal funding, specifically to the Charter Schools Program, as vital to supporting schools that serve children with disabilities.

Although the report consists of several strong recommendations, we differ with the report’s authors on some key points:

  • We do not agree that there should be an established cap on the amount of funding that can follow a child to a charter school if the child is transferring from a traditional district school. We strongly believe that the resources a student generates should follow him or her to the public school of his or her choice – including public charter schools.  
  • We do not support recommendations related to requiring charter school applicants to commit a proportional enrollment of students with disabilities as compared to the surrounding schools.  Such requirements would be more likely to create perverse incentives to meet enrollment quotas and divert attention and resources from delivering high quality services to students. 
  • While we support a more flexible implementation of weighted lottery requirements in ESSA than under NCLB, we do not believe a statutory amendment is necessary to address some of the concerns raised in this report.  States should be very cautious when considering adding additional components to lotteries other than the educationally disadvantaged status of students.

Also, the report does not fully account for changes made to the Charter Schools Program in ESSA that are starting to be implemented.  For example, funds can be used to start or expand charter schools to provide pre-K education, which could have an impact on overall long-term enrollment of students with disabilities in charter schools.  There are new authorizer quality requirements. The law also requires equitable geographic distribution of funds, to the extent that a state entity receives applications from different regions of the state.  Additionally, there is a requirement to prioritize the replication of high quality charter schools that seek to serve a diverse population and flexibility to serve schools with a poverty rate below 60 percent. 

National Alliance President and CEO Nina Rees released the following statement: 

“Because charter schools have the freedom to tailor their curriculum to the needs of their students, many charter schools are able to create environments where all students thrive. Charter schools have shown great promise in serving children with disabilities—especially in inclusive settings.

It is a privilege to serve students with disabilities and we look forward to working with groups like NCD to ensure that all of our school leaders are equipped with the latest tools and resources to fulfill the unique needs of every child.

Today’s statement is an initial response to the summary and recommendations in the report. The National Alliance will continue to evaluate the report’s findings and may comment further at

About Public Charter Schools
Public charter schools are independent, public, and tuition-free schools that are given the freedom to be more innovative while being held accountable for advancing student achievement. Since 2010, many research studies have found that students in charter schools do better in school than their traditional school peers. For example, one study by the Center for Research on Education Outcomes at Stanford University found that charter schools do a better job teaching low income students, minority students, and students who are still learning English than traditional schools. Separate studies by the Center on Reinventing Public Education and Mathematica Policy Research have found that charter school students are more likely to graduate from high school, go on to college, stay in college and have higher earnings in early adulthood.

About the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools
The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools is the leading national nonprofit organization committed to advancing the public charter school movement. Our mission is to lead public education to unprecedented levels of academic achievement by fostering a strong charter sector. For more information, please visit