Threats to special education in Illinois... and to me

[Editor's Note: Donald Trump isn't the only authoritarian trying to shut up those who disagree with him. As we learned the hard way at Substance (when we were sued for "copyright infringement" for publishing the odious CASE tests), Democrats and local and state leaders are as likely to try and shut down and shut up their most accurate critics. The following was sent to us by Bev Johns, who has long served to keep all of us up to date on Illinois special education issues. George N. Schmidt, Editor, Substance].


I have been informing educators and parents in Illinois that some school administrators are attempting to vastly reduce special education by eliminating direct funding for special ed teachers.

This has already happened in Chicago. With the special ed Block Grant, CPS receives the exact same amount of money if CPS has 1,000 special ed teachers OR 3,000.

That is why CPS keeps reducing special ed teachers because it loses ZERO money by doing it.

I have been urging educators and parents to please ask your State Senator and State Representative to reject the special education recommendations of Governor Rauner's School Funding Reform Commission.

In the name of local control, some school administrators have convinced certain State Senators and State Representatives to completely change special education in Illinois.

Their proposal has been endorsed by Gov. Rauner's School Funding Reform Commission.

It would completely eliminate direct State funding ot $9,000 for each special education teacher, and instead decide funding based on the number of GENERAL education students in a school district (NOT on the number of special education students or the number of special education teachers).

It assumes each school district has exactly the same percentage of special education students.

Unless you read all the background information given the Commission, you would never know this as the Report of the Commission is very vague.

The Report states, "The funding of the majority of special education services will be incorporated into the elements of the integrated formula."

This proposal comes from a study done for Vermont, that even Vermont rejected.

It recommends using Response to Intervention (RTI) to "prevent disability" so the need for special education is vastly reduced. Texas has used RTI to delay and deny special education, and has now been forced to stop doing that.

So some people have decided to threaten me, try to have my JUNO account terminated, and urged educators to ignore the information I am providing.

Here is an email I received when I informed some people of the threats I had received -


Dear Bev, Thank you for all you do for our kids with special needs. We are living in times when powerful, monied interests regularly resort to threats in order to silence thoughtful, child-centered and proven positions on education.

Please know that I have your back and consider you an invaluable ally in the fight for special education in Illinois. Please let me know what, if any, steps you would like me to take in response to these irresponsible silencing tactics.

Also, please feel to share this email. All the best to you and yours.

Mary Fahey Hughes, Founder and Director, 19th Ward Parents for Special Education


What has happened to me?

On February 2, I received an email from JUNO saying complaints had been received. I have sent emails to the EXACT SAME lists for over 2 years, and immediately remove anyone requesting that (I believe I have received only 2 such requests over the last 2 years).

On January 28, Kevin Rubenstein sent an email to all members of IAASE (the Illinois special ed administrators), signed by the leaders of IAASE, detailing their involvement in the Evidence Based (Vision 20/20) proposal to change education funding, which made the recommendation for funding special ed based on the number of general ed students.

That email also stated -

While some in the special education community have urged people to begin making phone calls to Commission members, we do not feel that this is necessary at this time since the work of the Commission is to produce a report only.

On January 29, I sent an email to my various lists urging action, that also stated -

The leadership of one organization sees no need for your input directly to the Commission (as they appear to favor what it is now recommending), saying the Commission will just produce a report.

On January 31, Kevin sent me an email asking to whom I had sent my email. I replied saying we could discuss these matters via email, he replied saying "you misquote us or talk about us in general terms and then go on to misquote things that we have said... as was the case with your message on Sunday."

As he stated, "us" (twice) and "we have said", it appeared he was speaking for IAASE.

In that email he also made other threats (see below).

I have NOT received a response to the email below sent to the President of IAASE.

---------- Forwarded Message ----------

From: "Beverley Holden Johns" To: leaanne.frost

Subject: IAASE

Date: Wed, 1 Feb 2017

Lea Anne -

I have received an email from Kevin Rubenstein making various threats. I have asked him (twice) if he was making the statements for IAASE and he has twice avoided a direct answer.

As this is a very serious matter, please reply as to whether he is doing this for IAASE.

He stated the following:

(1) you are either (ab)using the lists from Illinois CEC (which deserves attention from the national organization) [despite the fact that I had informed him that I was using a listing of special education administrators]

(2) or you added me to a list without my consent in which case your messages would be considered spam and against the law. I am pretty sure that there are hefty fines for organizations that do that. Does the Illinois Special Education Coalition have a budget?

Thanks, Bev


November 14, 2017 at 7:59 PM

By: David Agrest

Alleged Threat

Hi, I am trying to understand the issue here. I don't see any threat made against the writer of the article. It appears they have different opinions but I do not see the threat.

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