The Newark Charter School Fund (NCSF) recently awarded a grant of $259,000 to the National Center for Special Education in Charter Schools (NCSECS) aimed at improving opportunities for students with disabilities in Newark public charter schools. According to NCSECS' press release, the grant from NCSF will help "build systemic capacity" in Newark charters for these types of students.
A controversial facet of the (fairly brief) history of charter schools centers on the extent of opportunities for students with disabilities. In a 2012 report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office, charter schools were found to enroll lower percentages of students with disabilities than traditional public schools, despite the rapid growth of charter schools overall.
The Newark Charter School Fund, created in 2008, is best known for its partnership with Startup:Education, the organization launched by Facebook mogul Mark Zuckerberg. But, in fulfilling its mission to nurture the development of charter schools, the organization has pledged to ensure equal access and high-quality services in charter schools for all students, including those with diverse learning needs. The National Center for Special Education in Charter Schools, an advocacy group based in New York, has set improving opportunities in charter schools for students with disabilities as its main mission.
A sample of charter schools in Newark that NCSECS, with backing from NCSF, reviewed and analyzed in 2013-2014 have already showed improvement when it comes to special education, according to the groups. As one testament to this progress, many schools requested additional training for staff in order to effectively support students with disabilities who will enroll in the fall.
In the upcoming school year, NCSECS will continue its work with the charter schools to verify through additional research and school visits that all students have access to the same quality programs and supports in Newark's charter schools.