Failing Charter Schools: Victims of Unfair Regulation or Blights on Public Education?

Twenty years ago, Arizona became the second state in the nation to allow charter schools to operate in the public education system. In honor of the anniversary, New Times is taking a hard look at charters in Arizona. Earlier stories in this series examined how charter schools often fail kids with special needs and serve a disproportionate number of kids from wealthy white families. Today: how to handle failing charter schools.

Jeffrey Blay Jr. isn't a typical child. He is socially awkward, obsessive-compulsive, and academically brilliant.

Jeffrey attended elementary school in a California suburb. He couldn't stay in his seat. He would walk around, straighten out books, and sharpen pencils as his teachers explained the day's lesson. Not all teachers understood how Jeffrey's mind worked, and sometimes he was punished for not following classroom rules.

At just under 5 feet tall, the 12-year-old has blond hair and blue eyes -- and a diagnosis of autism.

At the end of fifth grade, his parents, Jeffrey Sr. and Jana Blay, opted out of sending their son to a junior high school in California. Instead, they moved to Arizona, where they home-schooled Jeffrey for a year.

And then they stumbled upon a school that seemed as if it might finally meet their son's needs: Jefferson Academy of Advanced Learning in Show Low, a small community about a three-hour drive northeast of Phoenix.