When Management Policies Collide: An Examination of How the Autonomous Intent of Charter School Laws Work with the Rigid Accountability of Idea

When Management Policies Collide: An Examination of How the Autonomous Intent of Charter School Laws Work with the Rigid Accountability of Idea

Brittany Larkin (Auburn University, USA)
Copyright: © 2017 |Pages: 13
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-1049-9.ch082


The public desire for school choice has led to the staggering growth of charter schools. Yet, charter schools are often criticized for their inability to maintain autonomy in the face of the requirements to provide special education services. This chapter will explore empirical research on charter schools and special education uncovering themes in policy, practice, access, funding, and parent satisfaction. The research recommendations also cluster into themes including governance, service delivery model, operations and technical assistance. Next, the charter school laws in each of the 43 states that allow charter schools were examined for evidence of the four recommended themes. The results indicated how some states were bridging the autonomous nature of charter school laws with the inflexible mandates of special education law.
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In the mere 23 years since the initial legislation creating policy for public charter schools took place in Michigan, 43 of the 50 states have charter school policy included within their state legislation. According to the National Alliance of Public Charter Schools, in 2013-2014 there were 6,440 public charter schools and 89,775 traditional public schools in the United States. With the continuous growth of charter schools each year across the country, it seems for the foreseeable future, school choice will be a part of the public school system. A point to consider along side this inevitable demand for choice is the mandated requirement of the public school system to educate students with disabilities in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

Reported by the United States Government Accountability Office, in the 2009-2010 school year 42,337,326 (11.2%) students with disabilities were served in traditional public schools, while 1,574,985 (8.2%) were served in charter schools. How legislation, policy and practice are addressing the requirement to educate students with disabilities in charter schools is quite varied. In a review of the empirical research on students with disabilities and charter schools, several trends were discovered not only in the findings but also in the recommendations. The purpose of this chapter was to examine the results of previous research conducted addressing special education in charter schools, document trends, and discover how state charter school laws pertaining to special education align with the trends, which can then be translated into practice in how to manage the balance between autonomy and required policy.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Technical Assistance: Third party aid, advice, collaboration to troubleshoot and navigate particular situations.

Charter Schools: A school operated with public tax dollars, managed and operated independent of the traditional schools, and granted levels of freedom from many state and local controls.

Autonomy: The independence from some of the state and local laws, mandates, at policies that traditional public schools must adhere.

Special Education Services: The programs and services (usually outlined on the services page of a students Individualized Education Program) required to provide a Free Appropriate Public Education.

Governance: Refers to the structure and management of the organization.

Operations: Refers to the programs and procedures guiding the organization.

Service Delivery Models: Refers to how services and programs are being administered including who is administering them and who is receiving them.

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