Oregon School Districts Restrict Choice for Special Education Students

By Olivia Wolcott

In Oregon public schools, every special education student receives an Individualized Education Program (IEP), designed to provide the child with an education in the “least restrictive environment” possible. However, Oregon school districts restrict the path to success for many special education students, especially in the case of virtual charter schools.

Hundreds of parents have turned to virtual charter schools to meet the needs of their special education children, voicing concerns that their children are not getting needed attention and are experiencing bullying and anxiety in their district’s special education classes. The online students attend local IEP meetings but can also participate in the same virtual classes as other students at their own pace and ability.

Unfortunately, districts are reluctant to release IEP students due to the additional funding that accompanies them. Consequently, many parents revoke their child’s special education status so that their home district will release the student to the charter school, stopping students from receiving both the at-home care they need to thrive and the IEP meetings with the home district.

School district reluctance to defer to concerned parents places undue strain on children, families, and virtual schools. For Oregon special education students to receive an individualized education in the least restrictive environment, districts should forego the desire to keep a few extra dollars and act in the best interests of the child.

Olivia Wolcott is a research associate at Cascade Policy Institute, Oregon’s free market public policy research organization.