SELPA Exit Letter Deadline: June 30, 2016

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June 9, 2016 In order to maintain the option of exploring LEA status for special education, or negotiating an alternative special education arrangement for the 2017-2018 school year, charter schools must submit a letter notifying their current SELPA, CDE, and CCSA Special Education Team of their intent to exit by June 30, 2016 (a full year in advance).

The letter of intent to exit is non-binding, but ensures your school has the option to explore LEA status in the future. This letter can also serve as a valuable bargaining tool with your authorizer or SELPA.

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 groundbreaking special education changes in the Los Angeles Unified School District are one example of the positive outcomes that can be created for students by working collaboratively with your authorizer on the issue of special education service provision. 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.

Charter schools were intended to serve as incubators for education reform, offering innovative educational models and demonstrating successful outcomes for all students. By their nature, charter schools are uniquely situated to provide individualized and high quality services to students with disabilities and other unique needs.

Under California law, charter schools have two options for the delivery of special education services:

  • Operate as a "school of the district" for special education purposes
  • Become an LEA (Local education Agency) for special education purposes

Most 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 to support these services.

While ideal for some schools, this arrangement can also mean high costs and poor quality of services for charter schools and it 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 autonomy in funding, oversight, and service delivery for special education services. Keep in mind, however, that these alternative options are not a guarantee for all charter schools.

Securing increased independence for special education requires careful planning and charters that assume LEA status for special education take on the 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 2017-2018 school year, charter schools must submit a letter notifying their existing SELPA and CDE of their intent to exit the SELPA by June 30, 2016.

Find more information about what it means to operate as an LEA for special education.