In September 2022, CLE began a multi-phase study on the feasibility of creating a centralization entity (Educational Service Agency) to coordinate special education across New Orleans’ decentralized system of autonomous charter schools. This executive summary of the study examines the interests and concerns of the New Orleans school community and families of students with disabilities regarding the current state of special education program delivery and their relative interest in exploring the creation of an Educational Service Agency. We also conducted case studies from other cities whose charter sectors have solved special education infrastructure challenges through Educational Service Agencies. Our study was conducted in close collaboration with NOLA Public Schools, which retained the Public Consulting Group for companion analysis on special education costs and opportunities for improved efficiencies.
We shared our comprehensive findings on December 5 in New Orleans with an audience of over 50 local charter school and special education leaders, nonprofit partners, local funders, and community members. Notably, nearly 80% of New Orleans school stakeholders reached through our study confirmed their interest in the system exploring an Educational Service Agency to remedy long-documented special education challenges. As the next step, we are supporting NOLA Public Schools by architecting an Educational Service Agency in partnership with interested local charter schools. As a follow-up, we will publish two comprehensive papers detailing our findings on New Orleans stakeholder perspectives and the role of Educational Service Agencies as a special education infrastructure model for charter schools.