So after I did my grades on all the schools for the percentage of the student populations that are special needs, I noticed some alarming trends, especially in Newcastle County in Delaware. This county has the bulk of the charter schools in this state, and some of the lowest special education populations in the state.
Red Clay Consolidated School District is a very unique school district in this state. Included in the district are the charter schools that reside within. Of course, I have to start with my most talked-about charter school, the good old Charter School of Wilmington. With their underwhelming .6% special ed population. I know, it’s a “smart” school, with an application process that probably makes Yale or Harvard look easy. But, many special needs students are smart, some are brilliant. They just need to be fully accommodated to reach that potential. I don’t think CSW wants to give that kind of attention to itself. Or to special needs students. So what would happen if CSW all of a sudden came to their senses and started accepting a lot more special needs students. Does that mean other schools would actually drop in special ed? Schools like A.I. Dupont High School (17.1%), Dickinson (17.5%) or McKean (20.2%)? We can’t put that much weight on CSW. So let’s take a look at the other charter schools in the area. Delaware Military Academy has a 2.8% population for special ed and Delaware College Prep lands at 4.1%. Delaware College Prep is an elementary school, so we can’t compare that to other high schools. But to be fair, let’s include Conrad School Of Science (2.9%) and Calloway School of the Arts (2.5%). These are all the high schools in Red Clay Consolidated. So what conclusions can be drawn from this? The bulk of special needs children are served at the public high schools. There are no charter elementary schools in Red Clay Consolidated. Why is that? Would it be too difficult to filter the “good” and the “potential trouble spot” students? Let’s not forget, the state average is 13.5%. So the public schools get the majority of the special ed students, thus bearing more of the financial cost through needs based funding.
To accurately see this reality, we would need to look at each school’s federal funding. Unfortunately none of the schools give a breakdown between the subgroups that fall under federal funding. The IDEA-B funding that schools receives are what covers special education in schools. If anyone can provide this information, I would love to see it.
All federal funding for any type of public school in Delaware falls under Title I (for students listed as poverty) and IDEA-B (all special education funds). Any school district should separate the two in their financial statements. Charter School of Wilmington does not. So it is impossible to find out how much they get for IDEA-B funding based on their total actual revenue from federal funding of $83,412. The same can be said of Delaware Military Academy. No breakdown on their federal funds, but they did receive a total of $156,301.96, almost twice as much as CSW. Red Clay does not give an exact breakdown of their federal IDEA-B funding either, but they do give a breakdown of the special education units that falls under needs based funding, so I would have to calculate what that amount comes to. I will do that and then I will update this article. Or again, if anyone wants to provide that information I would be happy to accept it!
The bottom line is a huge enrollment preference that is disproportionately unfair to Red Clay’s public schools. School choice allows parents to switch their children to different schools. But when the charter schools ask for IEP/Special Education info on the applications, some parents may view this as a positive when the reality is a game. The charter schools frequently use this information to weed out the undesirables. So much so that a bill was introduced today by House Rep Darryl Scott to prevent this very sort of event from happening.