Parents of children with special needs are more likely to face challenges in choosing a school for their child, according to a new report.
As the range of educational choices available to students becomes increasingly diverse, parents have to deal with issues they didn’t encounter when children were simply assigned to schools based on where they lived – issues that the report from the Center on Reinventing Public Education says can create barriers to true school choice.
Parents have to grapple with questions, which can often be most difficult for the parents of the most disadvantaged students: What schools are my children eligible to attend? Which school is the best fit? Is transportation available? Who provides it?
For all students to access choice options, the report says, “Leaders need a broader understanding of what’s actually happening where school choice has moved from the margins to the mainstream, including the opportunities and challenges choice brings and under what conditions.”
Researchers surveyed 4,000 parents at eight urban school districts around the country where a majority of parents actively choose their schools. They found the most common barriers for parents in those cities were finding out what schools their child was eligible to attend, finding transportation and getting information about schools.
All of those barriers were more pronounced for parents of children with special needs.
Parents of children with special needs were 33 percent more likely to struggle to understand whether their child was eligible to attend a school, 18 percent more likely to cite transportation as a barrier, and 36 percent more likely to find it difficult to get information to make a good choice compared to parents of general education students. Parents of children with special needs were also more likely to identify other issues as barriers, with 20 percent citing confusing paperwork, 21 percent identifying the large number of applications, and 24 percent citing different application deadlines.
The researchers also looked at 35 high-choice cities around the country, and found “city school systems are often governed by a patchwork of school districts, charter authorizers, and charter school operators. This state of affairs makes it difficult for city leaders to address crosscutting issues (such as parent information systems or transportation) that affect everyone but are no one’s responsibility.”