Myths, facts about charter schools for Fayette, Coweta

Here are some myths and facts about charter schools:

Myth: Charter schools do not accept children with special needs.

It doesn’t seem to matter whether you’re in Atlanta or farther south — people with titles have perpetuated the myth that charter schools do not accept children with special needs.

Fact: My special needs child is enrolled in a charter school.

Myth busted.

Not only did Coweta Charter Academy at Senoia (CCAS) accept my child legally through the lottery system, but they are doing an exceptional job of working with him and with me to provide the best learning environment and the best learning opportunities for him. I couldn’t be happier.

Here’s how the enrollment process works. By law, all public schools have to accept all children, including children with disabilities, and charter schools are public schools.

Because space in charter schools is often limited, they enroll students based on a lottery system. This means that students are chosen at random (usually by a computer) until all the open seats are filled.

Any remaining students are put on a wait-list so that if a parent chooses not to accept the spot, the spot will be offered to the next student on the wait-list.

Children with special needs are included in this process just like all other students, and the school does not know whether a child has special needs until he or she is actually enrolled in the school. It is against the law for the school to discriminate.

Myth: “In a charter school no child can go higher than the achievement level of the slowest learner in the classroom” (“Charter Schools Amendment on Ballot Draws Heat” published Oct. 10).

Fact: In addition to working with my child’s special needs, Coweta Charter Academy at Senoia also challenges my son’s giftedness. Yes, my child has both special needs and giftedness. Many children with special needs are twice exceptional, including children on the autism spectrum and children with dyslexia.

Sue Ella Deadwyler, a political commentator who talked negatively about the charter school amendment Oct. 8, made a blanket statement that no child enrolled in a charter school can go higher than the slowest learner in the classroom.

I could say the same about traditional public schools. In my experience, Deadwyler’s statement was more true of our neighborhood school than it is of Coweta Charter Academy.

CCAS prides itself in meeting each child where he or she is. I, for one, am quite happy with how well they have met my child where he is. Sorry, Miss Deadwyler, but your statement is just not true.

Myth busted.

I am being vocal about the charter amendment for two reasons:

1. I am extremely happy with our charter school. If the school were not doing a good job, I’d be homeschooling and keeping quiet.

2. I hear other special needs parents talk about their struggles with traditional public schools in both Fayette and Coweta counties. There are a lot of individual stories of frustration, and of success, but the bottom line is that the school designated by residence may not be the right school for the child. As parents of special needs children, we need choices.

If you are really concerned about children with special needs, then you will advocate for school choice. School choice includes:

· Charter schools.

· Georgia’s SB10, the Special Needs Scholarship Program, which provides some monies to children with special needs who need more specialized schooling in a private setting.

· Georgia’s HB251, which provides a procedure for changing schools within the school district if space is available and transportation is provided by the parent.

· Open enrollment within a school district, which is not available in Georgia at this time.

· Open enrollment across district borders, which is not available in Georgia at this time.

As a parent of a special needs child, open enrollment is the option that gets me most excited because it allows districts to pool their special ed resources and provide better educational environments for our special kids while still providing the “least restrictive environment” required by the IDEA law. I’ve experienced open enrollment in another state, and I really appreciated it.

Open enrollment is not on the table at this point, but the charter amendment is. For children of special needs, vote “Yes” on Nov. 6.

Cheryl Krichbaum

Senoia, Ga.