Culture Clash: Special Education in Charter Schools

57 Pages Posted: 25 Mar 2011 Last revised: 18 Apr 2012

See all articles by Robert A. Garda

Robert A. Garda

Loyola University of New Orleans College of Law

Date Written: March 21, 2011


Charter schools and special education for disabled students are founded on conflicting education reforms and agency oversight principles. Charter schools operate in a culture of regulatory freedom and flexibility. They arose out of the modern era accountability reform movement, in which student outcomes are the primary measure of school success and the driving engine of agency oversight. In stark contrast, special education laws were conceived in the civil rights era of education reform, which emphasized process and paid little attention to outcomes. The education of disabled students is steeped in a culture of regulatory oversight focused on rigid compliance with complex procedures. Special education and charter schools stand on competing foundations in the same schoolhouse. The article discusses this culture clash and the consequences to disabled students. The article explains how the uncomfortable fit between charter schools and special education often leads to violations of disabled students’ civil rights. The article suggests how the three primary sources of law affecting charter schools - federal law, state law, and charter agreements - should be changed to achieve a seamless fit of charter schools’ square peg into special education’s round hole for the benefit of disabled students.

Keywords: charter schools, special educaiton, Individuals With Disabilities in Education Act, accountability, Section 504

JEL Classification: I20, I21, I28, I29, K19

Suggested Citation

Garda, Robert A., Culture Clash: Special Education in Charter Schools (March 21, 2011). North Carolina Law Review, Vol. 90, No. 3, 2012, Loyola University New Orleans College of Law Research Paper No. 2012-08, Available at SSRN:

Robert A. Garda (Contact Author)

Loyola University of New Orleans College of Law ( email )

7214 St. Charles Ave.
Campus Box 901
New Orleans, LA 70118
United States

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