Charter schools deserve equal funding for special education

This letter to the editor originally appeared in the Detroit Free Press on 4/16/2016:

Rochelle Riley’s column last Sunday on charter schools and children with special needs is baseless and its key anecdote supposedly happened 20 years ago. State law prohibits discrimination of students with special needs. Around 9% of charter school students enrolled in charter schools have special needs, and many have wonderful success stories. This is not some small “unknown” number as is stated in the article. It is verified by Michigan’s Center for Education Performance and Information, the same database that holds all other educational data for the state.

In Detroit, DPS receives additional funding from the Act 18 special education millage that charters do not have access to. The Detroit Public Schools budget shows that they receive an extra $41.3 million dollars just this school year to educate special needs students. Its no wonder DPS can offer many extra programs with that kind of money. Parents have chosen charter schools for their children for a variety of reasons that are specific to their child. Charter schools in Michigan serve special needs students throughout Detroit. The key to making these programs even better is to stop discriminating against charter schools and demand that special needs students are funded equitably in Detroit.

Jared Burkhart

Executive Director, Michigan Council of Charter School Authorizers