August 26, 2021

Jessica Pollard: Some New Mexico charter school admission policies may be discriminatory

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Reports indicate that some New Mexico charters are using an application process to weed out students with special needs, a violation of state law. Reporter Jessica Pollard has the story.

A private law firm’s partial review of charter school admissions practices found some state-funded institutions in New Mexico are violating state rules by requesting information about prospective students’ special-education needs.

Leaders of a few charter schools cited in the report were surprised to learn about the violations and quickly altered their applications for lottery-based enrollment to remove questions deemed discriminatory. The error was an oversight and not intended to discourage students from applying, they said.

Other administrators defended their practices, however, arguing their schools provide a rigorous curriculum that may not be appropriate for some students with special needs.

Kathy Sandoval-Snider, director of the Albuquerque Institute for Math and Sciences at the University of New Mexico, one of the state’s highest-performing schools, said students who are accepted sign a contract acknowledging they understand AIMS-UNM is “no walk in the park.”

The charter application review by Pegasus Legal Services, which urged the state Public Education Department to investigate enrollment forms of the nearly 100 charter schools across New Mexico, has raised questions about how closely the schools are being monitored and whether privately run institutions designed for students with specific abilities and interests should receive public funding.

In a letter to Pegasus on Wednesday, outgoing Public Education Secretary Ryan Stewart said the Public Education Commission would discuss oversight of charter school lottery enrollment practices at an upcoming meeting. The commission is tasked with approving charters and overseeing state-chartered schools. Other charter schools are overseen by public school districts.

News that some schools have been asking for information on disabilities before accepting students came as a shock to Public Education Commissioner Steven Carrillo of Santa Fe.

Read the complete story here.

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