No city relies on charter schools more than New Orleans, so the low number of special education students served at the schools could forecast what’s ahead for many cities turning to the new model.

Today charter schools service 60 percent of New Orleans students, but cater to far fewer students with disabilities as compared to those without. While the city’s reliance on charters is unique, similarly low enrollment of special education students has been reported at charter schools in California, Massachusetts and other parts of the country.

All children have a legal right to an education, but charters — which receive public funding but are run by nonprofit boards — have more leeway over who they will admit than traditional public schools.

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Accordingly, parents of New Orleans children with disabilities say they have difficulty finding schools that will meet their child’s special needs. In some cases, they say, charters don’t even return phone calls when they learn that a prospective student is in special education.

Though the reasons vary, no one denies that the difficulty of educating special education students is a factor in their low enrollment at charters.

Ideas to fix the problem are wide-ranging. Some parents support creating specialized schools to best deal with different disabilities — one school specializing in autism, another to focus on cognitive disabilities, for example. Meanwhile, others say charter schools should be monitored more closely to ensure they enroll diverse student populations, reports The (New Orleans) Times-Picayune. To read more click here.