Do charter schools favor students from higher income areas?

PHOENIX (KSAZ) -- Do charter schools discriminate in enrollment, favoring students from higher-income areas, and capping the number of special education and English language learner students they take?

Charter schools get tax money, and they're an alternative to public schools, but critics say some charters try to steer clear of certain kinds of students, and they say that's illegal and unacceptable.

The state's Charter Board says it is making progress to prevent discrimination in enrollment, but some critics say more progress needs to be made.

On Monday morning, there was a packed meeting of the Arizona State Charter Board at the Arizona Department of Education. Members of the ACLU's "Demand2Learn" group told the board they're concerned that lower-income areas of the Valley don't get the same caliber of Charter Schools as wealthier areas.

"When you cherry pick, it creates a biased atmosphere," said parent Leeza Sun. "When they have money coming from taxpayer's money, in abundance, above public school vouchers, what's going to happen with the lower income homes?"

The Demand2Learn group wants charter schools to not cap enrollment of special education students and English language learners. The state's Charter Board says it is aware of the danger of discrimination in enrollment in charter schools.

"We are on our second review of all the charter schools to make sure they comply with enrollment, and we are following up with them, and will provide detail to the board," said one member of the board. "So, we have communicated with 100% to get them in compliance. At this time, we have gone through all of our schools' documentation."

Members of the Demand2Learn group acknowledge there's progress, but say there is still a lot of work to do.

"We are not there yet," said Anabel Maldonado. "Currently, enrollment guidelines are only on a five-year basis. That is why we want them on annual basis to hold charter schools accountable."

The Demand2Learn group is also asking the state's Charter Board to analyze enrollment practices at charter schools every year, to make sure there is no discrimination.