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Special Education Initiative

NACSA’s Special Education Initiative offers special education-related information, resources, and technical assistance tailored to the needs of charter school authorizers working in diverse contexts.

Special education is one of the most serious challenges facing charter schools. It is a highly regulatory, severely underfunded system with both federal and state-specific requirements that are often unclear to charter schools. At the same time, the system exacts heavy liability for noncompliance. This lack of clarity for charter schools combined with potential for heavy liability can create animosity between charter schools and school districts or state education agencies.

As the first source of information for many charter schools on their legal obligations, charter authorizers are in a position to help ensure that charter schools understand and plan adequately with respect to special education students. Yet authorizers themselves have few resources to turn to for objective, accurate information customized to their roles and to the special education regimes in place in their particular states. NACSA’s Special Education Initiative is designed to help bridge this gap and serve as a unique resource for charter school authorizers across the country.

NACSA’s Special Education Initiative maintains close communication with national resources on the implementation of special education in charter schools, such as the U.S. Department of Education, the National Association of State Directors of Special Education, and the Charter School Leadership Council.

Our Special Education Initiative offers the following major resources for charter school authorizers:

1. A Reference Guide to Special Education Law for Charter School Authorizers

Our Reference Guide to Special Education Law for Charter School Authorizers seeks to clarify the key elements of federal special education law and regulation that should guide the authorizer’s oversight role in ensuring that charter schools are appropriately addressing the educational needs of students with disabilities.

2. Special Education Technical Assistance for Charter Schools (SPEDTACS)

NACSA was a partner in the federally funded SPEDTACS (Special Education Technical Assistance for Charter Schools) Project led by the National Association of State Directors of Special Education from 2001 to 2004. With extensive input from the charter schools field and other research, SPEDTACS has produced three primers on special education in charter schools – one for authorizers, tailored to different types of agencies and environments; one for charter school developers/operators, which discusses the varying legal relationships between charter schools and their local districts; and a third one targeted to state officials whose roles involve them in charter schools. The primers lay the foundation for a set of web-based training modules developed for the project.

NACSA is also a partner on the follow-up project at NASDSE entitled the TA Customizer funded by the U.S. Department of Education in 2004. The Primers and the related website will be used as a basis for work with individual states to develop state-specific resources for special education in charter schools. This project is also responsible for convening two National Summits on Special Education in Charter Schools, one of which occurred in 2004. Copies of the major presentations from that event are available on the TA Customizer site.

3. Special Education Q & A Service

NACSA’s Special Initiative also provides a Special Education Q&A Service, which draws on a network of national and state resources and authorities on special education to answer questions from NACSA members. NACSA members may submit questions concerning special education to