Reminder: Keep Your Special Education Options Open - June 30 Deadline
June 16, 2014 In order to maintain the option of exploring LEA status for special education or negotiating alternative special education arrangements for the 2015-2016 school year, charter schools must submit a letter notifying their existing SELPA and CDE and CCSA Special Education Team of their intent to exit by June 30, 2014 (a full year in advance). The letter of intent to exit is non-binding, but ensures that your school has the option to explore LEA status in the future. This letter can also serve as a valuable bargaining tool with the authorizer or SELPA!
Charter schools were intended to serve as incubators for education reform, offering innovative educational models and demonstrating successful outcomes for all students. By this very nature, charter schools are uniquely situated to provide individualized and high quality services students with disabilities and other unique needs.
Under California law, charter schools have two options for the delivery of special education services:
- Operate as an "arm of the district" or "school of the district" for special education purposes
- Become an LEA (Local education Agency) for special education purposes
However, many California charter schools currently operate as schools of their authorizing district for purposes of special education. Under this scenario, the authorizing district retains the responsibility and decision making authority for providing all special education services to students enrolled in the charter school, and receives state and federal funding necessary to support these services. Not only does this arrangement translate to high costs and poor quality of services for many charter schools, it also prevents charter schools from delivering special education services that align with the innovation and educational philosophies that are unique to their school.
Alternative special education arrangements - including the option to seek LEA status for special education - can provide charter schools with the autonomy in funding, oversight and service delivery in relation to special education services.
But these alternative options are not a guarantee for all charter schools. Securing increased independence for special education requires careful planning and advocacy and assumes full responsibility for providing quality and compliant special education programs and services, while ensuring that all eligible students receive a free appropriate public education (FAPE) as dictated by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). The charter school must, therefore, demonstrate both the programmatic and fiscal capacity to achieve this goal, as well as the infrastructure and experience necessary to operate independently as an LEA.
In order to maintain the option of exploring LEA status or negotiating alternative special education arrangements for the 2015-2016 school year, charter schools must submit a letter notifying their existing SELPA and CDE of their intent to exit the SELPA by June 30, 2014.
The letter of intent to exit is non-binding (submitting a letter does not mean you must exit your SELPA), but ensures that your school has the option to explore LEA status if you so choose. Schools that do not submit this notification by June 30 will not have the option to join a new SELPA during following school year.
This letter can also serve as a valuable bargaining tool with your authorizer or SELPA and help charter schools open up dialogue as this may encourage the authorizer to work with you toward better special education arrangements as a school of the district.
Many charter schools, including some that were not planning to seek LEA status for special education, have experienced improvements in their relationships and special education arrangements with their authorizer as a result of submitting a letter notifying their authorizer and SELPA of their intent to explore alternative SELPA options.
The recent and groundbreaking special education changes in the Los Angeles Unified School District can also be attributed to this notification. For these reasons, CCSA encourages you to notify your authorizer and existing SELPA of your intent to explore new special education options, including the option seek LEA status in an alternate SELPA.