Why Parents of Student With Disabilities Enrolled Their Child In An Online Virtual Charter School: Using Extant Data

School choice is a long-standing tradition in the United States. New to the options available to K-12 parents are full-time virtual schools, and this option is an even more recent development for parents of students with disabilities. Very little research exists on why parents are choosing full-time virtual education for their school-aged children, and almost no research exists on why parents of students with disabilities (Grades K-12) are choosing this option. This descriptive, nonexperimental exploratory study sought to answer the following research questions: (1) What factors led parents to enroll their child with disabilities in an online virtual charter school? (2) Were these factors attributable to positive characteristics of the virtual charter school in which the child was enrolling, or were the factors attributable to negative characteristics of the school the child was leaving? (3) Do the factors identified by parents vary by parents’ race/ethnicity, parent educational levels, or student disability? This study suggests that parents of student with disabilities students chose a virtual charter school for their children due to pull factors related to California Connections Academy (CALCA). Specifically, parents seemed most interested in being able to individualize education for their children and being able to instill their values in their children by educating them at home. Emphases on teaching the basics and on teacher quality were also important factors for parents. Attention should also be given to the several factors (bullying, Special Education/504 Plans, teacher attributes, and quality curriculum) that parents took extra effort to mention in the open-ended response items. Implications for practice, future research, and policy are discussed.