The DeKalb County School District (DCSD) is the third largest district in Georgia, serving slightly more than 100,000 students. Recently, I compiled a spreadsheet showing the percentage of K-12, students with IEPs (students with disabilities) at each school. This was done by matching the Oct. 2016 enrollments posted of the GaDOE website with the number of students with IEPs at each school. The number of students with IEPs at each school was obtained through an open records request.
Currently, 9.8% of DCSD K-12 students have IEPs compared to 13% nation wide.
DCSD has eleven charter schools, including Tapestry Public Charter. 55.8% of Tapestry students currently have IEPs. If one excludes Tapestry from the calculation, the percentage of students with IEPs in DCSD charter schools is 7.5%; half of the national percentage. This is concerning to me.
The percentages of DCSD charter school students with IEPs (other than Tapestry Public Charter) ranges from 2.8% at DeKalb Academy of Technology and the Environment Charter School, to 11.7% at Peachtree Middle School.
There are a variety of reasons why the percentage of students with disabilities in DCSD public charter schools is lower than the district average. One of the reasons I have heard from parents is, after their child is admitted through a lottery process, the school tells them it is not able to meet their child's needs, or provide the services their child requires. These families are forced back to the neighborhood schools.
Another common theme heard when speaking with parents is, the charter school failed to implement their child's IEP with fidelity. Families move their students back to their neighborhood schools, hoping their child's IEP will be followed. This was my experience.
In DeKalb County, there isn't an effective mechanism to enforce IEPs. Also, the GaDOE process for filing a grievance is onerous and heavily skewed in favor of school districts.
Another thing that stands out when looking at the spreadsheet is the percentage of students with IEPs enrolled in DCSD magnet schools. Only 1.2% of students at Kittredge magnet and and 1.0% of students at Wadsworth magnet have IEPs. At Arabia Mountain High School, 3.4% of students have IEPs. Less than 4.5% of students at the DeKalb School of the Arts and the DeKalb Elementary School of the Arts have IEPs. Overall, 8.4% of students enrolled in magnet schools in DCSD have IEPs.
Given the probable confirmation of Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education, I am very concerned with the hypocrisy of the rhetoric of "school choice." In DeKalb County, "school choice" does not provide families of students who have disabilities the same choices as other families.
Click the following link to view the spreadsheet which documents the number of DCSD Charter schools with IEP's (tab in spreadsheet): https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1pASqiC6ifh2WgGTGnUNt8K5MBJmY-NEPfGZ9Pkbnit0/edit#gid=0
My note: If any of you were able to view Education Secretary Nominee Betsy DeVos' confirmation hearing one had to be horrified at her views on education, especially that of children with disabilities.
“I think that is a matter that’s best left to the states,” DeVos said when asked by U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., if she believed that all schools receiving taxpayer dollars should be required to adhere to the mandates of the IDEA.
“So some states might be good to kids with disabilities and other states might not be so good and then what, people can just move around the country if they don’t like how their kids are being treated?” Kaine responded.
“I think that’s an issue that’s best left to the states,” DeVos insisted.
Later in the hearing Sen. Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., whose son has cerebral palsy, revisited the issue.
“That’s a federal civil rights law,” Hassan said of the IDEA. “So do you stand by your statement a few minutes ago that it should be up to the states whether to follow it?”
“Federal law must be followed where federal dollars are in play,” DeVos said.
“So were you unaware when I just asked you about the IDEA that it was a federal law?” asked Hassan.
“I may have confused it,” DeVos acknowledged.
Hassan said she’s concerned that some voucher programs, which DeVos has supported, require students with disabilities to give up their rights under the IDEA in order to take part. This could lead to public schools becoming “warehouses” for students with special needs and those from families unable to pay the difference between vouchers and the cost of private school tuition, she said.
“I just would urge you to become familiar should you become nominated with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act,” Hassan said. “I do have to say I’m concerned that you seem so unfamiliar with it and that you seem to support voucher schools that have made students sign away their rights to make sure that the law is enforced. That’s very troubling to me.”
Click the following link to read the entire article: https://www.disabilityscoop.com/2017/01/18/trump-education-pick-idea/23198/