Sections:

Article

Chicago Teachers Union, parents expose CPS special ed frauds while Clark and Claypool work to gag and drag out rank-and-file critics at Board meeting... '[CPS is]...obstructing or threatening parents or staff who speak out about these devastating violations of students' special education rights...'

West Side parent Zerlina Smith (above, with golden hair) was blocked from speaking at the September 29, 2015 meeting of the Chicago Board of Education by Board security. Despite the fact that Smith was signed up to speak, CPS Chief Executive Officer Forrest Claypool ordered that the maximum number of speakers about the special education cuts be "consolidated", reducing the number of speakers dramatically. Smith's protest was blocked by a group of CPS security guards despite the fact that she was on the original speakers' list. While Claypool and Board President Frank Clark worked to gag critics of CPS policies, groups that lied about charter schools' supposed "successes" were allowed the maximum time to speak. Substance photo by David Vance. By the end of the September 29, 2015 meeting of the Chicago Board of Education, it was clear that the Board's agenda was to undermine special education services to as many children in Chicago's real public schools as possible. At the same time, CPS officials, led by Chief Executive Officer Forrest Claypool and Board of Education President Frank Clark, did everything in their considerable power to gag, shut up, and even haul off teachers, parents and students who tried to bring the facts to the Board at its only public meeting during the opening month of school. At the same time, Clark and Claypool made sure that people speaking about the wonders of the city's charter schools received maximum time to tell their lies, while CPS was doing nothing to challenge the illegal denial of special ed services to eligible children in the city's growing number of charter schools and "campuses."

After months of claiming that CPS had done a so-called "study" about the current staffing of special education services in the nation's third largest school system, during the opening weeks of schools CPS officials finally admitted that no such "study" exists, and that what they had done was neither an audit nor a study, but simply an activity designed to produce a mendacious Power Point (presented to the September Board meeting by the head of what CPS calls "Diverse Learners Support Services") and talking points that were served out to reporters who were not allowed to ask follow up questions.

A CTU report criticizing the special education cuts compared what is being done in September 2015 with the school closings that were done in May 2013. For observers, the comparison was even more dramatic, as CPS officials dragged out from a public meeting several speakers who tried to raise serious questions and criticisms of the CPS special education cuts. At the Board's May 2013 meeting, CPS security actually carried out a parent who tried to simply read the names of all the schools on the closing list (CPS didn't even read the schools' names when it voted on the cuts, instead reading from the agenda designators for the schools to be closed).

Parents and teachers were not the only ones ordered to shut up and leave the podium during the September 29, 2015 meeting of the Chicago Board of Education. Above, Christine Boardman, president of Local 73 of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), is told to shut up by CPS officials, while security pulls the microphone away from her in the middle of her remarks. Boardman's union local represents SECAs (Special Education Classroom Assistants) and bus aides, two groups that have suffered enormous cuts during the rape of special education services by CPS since July 2015. Many observers noted the irony in Boardman's current position, saying "Scabs doesn't pay!" Boardman reached a deal in August 2012 with Rahm Emanuel's Board of Education, signing a contract while the Chicago Teachers Union was still in negotations with Jean-Claude Brizard and the Board of Education (then headed by David Vitale). When the Chicago Teachers Union was forced out on strike in September 2012, Boardman ordered her union's members to cross CTU picket lines, thereby helping the Emanuel administration's claims. Ironically, many of the hundreds of special education aides fired by CPS during recent months were the same people who had crossed the teachers' union's picket lines three years earlier. Substance photo by David Vance. Also reminiscent of that history was the fact that corporate executive Frank Clark, who chaired the committee that recommended the cuts and held hearings across the city, is now President of the Chicago Board of Education. Clark, who has a "campus" of the Noble Network of Charter Schools named after him, made no secret at the September 2015 Board meeting that he was going to move forward with the massive privatization of Chicago's public education services. Not only did he show repeated favoritism to speakers on behalf of charter schools, but he even refused to answer a direct question from another Board of Education member about the Board's position on the "Chicago Charter Schools Commission."

After the dramatic cuts to the city's real public schools, Clark is expected to support a further expansion of the city's charter schools and so-called "campuses" at the Board's October meeting.

The day of the Board meeting, the CTU released a study showing how much budget cuts were denying services to disabled children, in violation of federal and state law.

CTU PRESS RELEASE:

New CTU report finds special education in a state of crisis throughout Chicago Public Schools

NEWS RELEASE FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: Stephanie Gadlin September 29, 2015 312/329-6250 StephanieGadlin@ctulocal1.com

CHICAGO-The Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) today released a special report examining the state of special education services in Chicago Public Schools (CPS).

The report, titled "Special Education Services in Crisis at CPS," looks at the impact of special education "right-sizing" throughout the district, culminating most recently in June with devastating cuts to more than 700 positions and the slashing of more than $40 million from the CPS special education budget. The CTU finds these cuts to be not only untenable, but also unsupported by any data grounded in student needs.

CPS Chief Education Officer Janice Jackson has been quoted as saying that the cuts to special education would not hurt children and that CPS will intervene to make sure students receive the supports they need. CPS administrators have claimed that none of the closed special education paraprofessional positions would affect services written into Individualized Education Programs (IEPs), and that all were just "supplemental" positions closed after a CPS audit of its resourcing levels.

These cuts were reportedly the result of an "18-month review" of special education, yet CPS has been unable to produce documents that detail the needs outlined in student IEPs across the district and analyze how current or past staffing was being utilized to meet those needs.

In fact, in an email to a parent inquiring about the cuts at a specialty school, Markay Winston, head of the CPS Office of Diverse Learner Supports and Services, clarified that no audit specific to their school had been conducted, and further, that no written report existed about the district's review of special education staffing levels at the schools, nor about the process for deciding cuts.

According to Winston, the oft-cited 18-month "review" was an unrecorded "process by which we looked at our schools over a period of time to determine student enrollment and staffing needs."

Last week's 10th day budget cuts are further eroding special education supports. While net losses across all district schools for special education positions total 16.5 teachers and 52.5 assistants, there are 161 schools losing special education teachers and 185 schools losing paraprofessional support. These schools will have to cope with the loss of 237 special education teachers and 337 special education assistants.

Furthermore, of the 40 schools that clawed back special education aide positions in August from the district, 21 of those schools have now lost aide positions in the 10th day cuts. Across those 21 schools, more special education paraprofessional positions have now been cut than won back: 42 cut this week vs. 41.5 gained on net in August.

"Special Education Services in Crisis at CPS" documents the impact that the initial cuts have had to the first two weeks of school, detailing how the loss of paraprofessional supports has made it impossible to meet critical accommodations for students; how the lack of special education teachers have meant more students with disabilities pushed into over-sized general education classrooms without the supports outlined in their IEPs; and how school staff has been forced to give up essential prep time in order to cover for the scheduling holes that the district's budget cuts have created. For overworked case managers, setting up legally required IEP meetings with parents, teachers and 'touring' clinicians-who barely spend more than a day at one school a week-is difficult enough, but teaching and clinician staff also need time to meet and plan services for students.

The lack of planning, resources, sufficient training for administrators and little transparency pervades the district's roll-out of All Means All, and its drive towards what it terms "inclusion."

The district's approach towards special education has a lot in common with its approach to the mass school closings in 2013, where it used a blunt metric for assessing buildings as a stand-in for the real-world usages that diverse communities have for their schools. The district views special education provision as a matter of just hitting the right measures, so they substitute "achievement gap" language for meeting students' individualized needs; view "inclusion" as something to immediately implement rather than as a process to support; and let blunt metrics like staffing ratios determine how to "right-size" special education from the top down instead of working to support the resource-need established in the IEPs by the student, family members and professional teams.

This commonality is no coincidence-this top-down approach permeates every policy change in CPS. The district has painted a false picture about special education cuts that have decimated our schools. Due to the district's failure to provide data on how student needs are being met, the CTU is calling for the mayor's newly re-structured Chicago Board of Education to have the district audit special education services across all schools; carefully document instances where accommodations and services are not being delivered; and require the district to stop discouraging, obstructing or threatening parents or staff who speak out about these devastating violations of their students' special education rights.

### The Chicago Teachers Union represents nearly 27,000 teachers and educational support personnel working in the Chicago Public Schools, and by extension, the more than 400,000 students and families they serve. The CTU is an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers and the Illinois Federation of Teachers and is the third largest teachers local in the United States and the largest local union in Illinois. For more information please visit CTU's website at www.ctunet.com. SG:oteg-743-tr



Comments:

Add your own comment (all fields are necessary)

Substance readers:

You must give your first name and last name under "Name" when you post a comment at substancenews.net. We are not operating a blog and do not allow anonymous or pseudonymous comments. Our readers deserve to know who is commenting, just as they deserve to know the source of our news reports and analysis.

Please respect this, and also provide us with an accurate e-mail address.

Thank you,

The Editors of Substance

Your Name

Your Email

What's your comment about?

Your Comment

Please answer this to prove you're not a robot:

4 + 3 =