ACLU investigates the enrollment procedures for Arizona charter schools
April 3, 2018
The Arizona branch of the ACLU have discovered through their Schools Choosing Students reports that charter schools have policies in place that allow them to choose which students they want to serve.
Typically, it’s up to the families to decide where they want their children to attend school. Public charter schools in the state has been altering that framework so they decide who is and isn’t allowed to enroll in their school.
“The report looked at 471 different charter schools and their enrollment practices and policies,” Policy Director for the ACLU Arizona Chapter Will Gaona says. “What we found is that at least 56% of those charter schools have practices that are either clear violations of law or that discourage certain populations of students from enrolling in their school.”
For one example, there are charter schools that limit the number of special education kids they are willing to enroll. Gaona shares the case of a woman whose sons were in the process of enrolling at a charter school in Phoenix, until the school told her that they wouldn’t be allowed because it “had already filled all the special education slots.”
“Through our investigation, we found that wasn’t an isolated practice,” Gaona says. “There are a number of schools that in clear violation of state and federal law placed caps on the number of special education students they were willing to serve.”
The one disciplinary basis where a school can refuse to enroll a student is if the child had been expelled from a previous school. However, there are charters that have been adding words to that rule in their own policies.
“In at least 59 charter schools, their enrollment policies either strictly prohibited students with past suspensions from enrolling or implied that their past suspensions can prevent them from enrolling,” Gaona says.
The State Charter Board oversees all charter schools in Arizona. Once this report was released, they saw more parents sitting in on their meetings to demand that they provide the oversight that they are supposed to.
There’s a new bill on the table that will allow a corporation or business entity to make a donation to a charter and then children of the employees from the business will receive an enrollment preference. The enrollment preference can make up nearly half of the student body for some charter schools.
“I realize school choice is a bit of a contentious issue in Arizona, but I like to think that we can all agree that a student’s ability to attend a public charter school shouldn’t depend on connections of the student’s parents,” Gaona says.