The charter application should describe the funding and responsibilities for provision of services for students with special needs. Special education refers to those instructional and related services (such as occupational therapy, physical therapy, etc.) that are provided to students with disabilities in accordance with an Individualized Education Program (IEP). Federal and state laws require that public schools (a) assess students suspected of having disabilities, and (b) develop and implement IEP's for eligible students. A charter school may :
- Provide all of the services in compliance with state and federal special education laws i.e. Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)/ Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (504)/ Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), traditionally contracting out to a third party or parties;
- Contract with the authorizing district for services to be provided; or
- Negotiate a combination of district contracted services and services to be provided by the charter school.
Since charter schools are sponsored by a local school district in Colorado, ultimate responsibility for special education services is with the Administrative Unit for Special Education. Sometimes that is the district and sometimes that is a Board of Cooperative Education Services (BOCES). The Special Education Director in the Administrative Unit has the responsibility to ensure compliance with the state and federal special education laws.
Licensure requirements for special education service providers may not be waived. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is a federal law that requires that personnel providing the Individual Educational Program be appropriately trained and licensed. It is essential that charter school developers and those involved with them understand that there are no exemptions from any federal or special education law, including Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, Title II of the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), and the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), which can be granted. A student in a charter school, suspected of having a disability that may be a reason for the student’s educational difficulty, must be assessed and considered for special education regardless of whether or not federal or state special education funds are accepted by the charter school.