For Students with Special Needs, Charter Schools are a Necessity, Not a Choice

Continued litigation of HB 7069 threatens to take money away from charter school students who need the most support

As a resident of Winter Garden, my family’s gratitude for our local public charter schools runs deep, which is why we fully support HB 7069 for providing equitable fund to all public-school students.

We have two sons who both attended charter schools. Our oldest, Kyle, attended Hope Charter School and then Legacy High School, where he graduated in May 2017. While at Legacy, he was dual-enrolled at Valencia College to earn college credits, took honors and AP courses, and was accepted at the University of Central Florida, a school he was well-prepared for and where he is thriving.

Jake, our younger son, entered Hope Charter School for grades seven and eight and started this year at Legacy High School.

Jake is an Exceptional Education student, challenged with dyslexia and speech and language delays. Before Hope, was attended a prestigious private school on scholarship, but was bullied there daily, and the faculty was not interested in helping him succeed. Next, he transferred to another private school and was diagnosed with dyslexia. Unfortunately, by the time we received this diagnosis, Jake was in the fifth grade and had been retained several times.

Jake entered Hope Charter School in seventh grade and was equipped with an Individualized Education Program (IEP). He acclimated well, made friends, received tutoring from his teachers, and thrived academically. The individualized attention he received at Hope Charter School had never been available to him before. Now, no one bullies Jake or makes fun of him because of his challenges. Instead, he has friends to sit with at lunch and spend time with on the weekends.

Before Hope, Jake never had an educational community that cared for his needs and gave him the tools to succeed academically. Jake will always struggle with dyslexia, but because of the programs in place at Hope and Legacy, that diagnosis is no longer defining who he is or what he can accomplish.

Jake is succeeding because of the commitment and dedication of his school community – a community that did not have equal access to public schools funding before House Bill (HB) 7069. The millage dollars in question in HB 7069 – the funding the district schools are determined not to share with charter schools – will help ensure children like Jake are defined by their successes, not crushed by their disabilities. Before HB 7069, public charter schools were forced to use operating funds to pay for capital expenses, limiting the funding available to provide greater resources for the needs of Exceptional Education students like Jake.

The continued litigation around HB 7069 further drains public resources that should go to our students. Rather than using resources that come from our property taxes to fight this legislation, districts should be choosing to help meet the needs of all public-school students equitably. Whether a child learns easily or needs more support to succeed, whether he attends a traditional public school or a charter school, they are all public-school students and deserve equal access to public funding.

What do you think?


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