Special Education services for the most disabled children face growing attacks from Daley administration, Board of Education

Principals, parents, teachers and students across Chicago are growing in the awareness that the Chicago Board of Education, for the past seven years under the leadership of Mayor Richard M. Daley and Michael Scott, has been systematically (and illegally) depriving the city's most deserving children of the public special education services both the law and common decency say they deserve.

The Garrison family (above) testified during the hearings on the proposed phase out of Andersen Elementary School proposed by Arne Duncan. He hearing was held on February 15, 2008 in front of a hearing officer whose law firm was the largest outside contractor for the Board. Above, the Garrison's child smiles and cheers along with some of the teachers and parents from Andersen, who had provided a second family for the severely disabled child. Despite the facts, the hearing officer approved Arne Duncan's recommendation that Andersen be subjected to what is called "phase out" and the neighborhood school, which had served the community for more than 100 years, become a special school for the gentrifying new homeowners along Division Street. The recent revelations that the principal of Prescott Elementary School, Erin Roche, had dumped as many special education programs as possible from his school in his drive to create an "elite" school for the children of a wealthy handful who have been moving into the area is not singular.

The closing of schools with programs for the neediest children, along with massive cuts in special education services and the sabotaging of the IEP process (so that teachers cannot prescribe one-on-one services for children) was a long-term policy of the Duncan administration (2001 - 2009).

Substance was reminded of that fact during a recent exchange on the "District 299" blog. The fate of the special needs children from a long list of schools going back seven years has always been the same. CPS promises that the services will be sustained at the level they were at the school that has gotten on to what was called "Arne Duncan's Hit List." As soon as the school is closed, the neediest children are pushed back into the closet.

Although attorney Respicio Vazquez (above left) told the Andersen hearing that he was an "independent" hearing officer, Substance revealed that Vazquez was a partner in the law firm of Franczek Sullivan PC, which received the largest amount of outside business of any law firm in Chicago from the Chicago Board of Education between 2003 and 2008, when the photograph above was taken. The firm, now "Franczek Rose and Radelet...", continues to have close ties to Chicago's City Hall and the leadership of the Democratic Party. Partner Charlie Rose was recently appointed chief counsel for the U.S. Department of Education by Arne Duncan. Following the hearing on February 15, 2008, Vazquez recommended that the Board of Education approve the proposal by Arne Duncan, then CEO of CPS, that Andersen be subjected to "phase out" and a new selective enrollment elementary school ("La Salle II") be substituted for the 100-year-old Andersen. One of the things being wiped out by phase out was the huge special education program at Andersen. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.In the coming months, Substance will begin publishing investigative stories about the drive to privatize specialized services for public school children in Chicago, in some cases in manners that would have shocked the readers of the novels of Charles Dickens. Substance will also be profiling the principals, teachers, parents, and children who have fought to prevent the City of Chicago, its mayor, the CEO of Chicago's schools, and the seven members of the Chicago Board of Education from destroying the hopes of children who need that hope the most. 


July 6, 2009 at 4:17 PM

By: So Sad

Separate But Equal?

It's hard to believe it's 2009 in Chicago, or is it? This being the most segregated city in the USA I guess it's only obvious that the kids that look 'different' be shuttled off to areas where we won't have to see them. It is blatantly apparent that Daley, in his attempt to win the 2016 summer games, is 'prettying up' the place. CPS policy regarding the two tier plan for educating Chicago children makes me feel nauseous & embarrassed to live: here we are that backward.

July 19, 2009 at 11:52 PM

By: Parent of special-needs student in CPS

Can't wait

George--I am very much looking forward to your series. This is an issue that is NOT getting enough attention. My child is in a special program at a school where, unlike Prescott, the principal has embraced special-ed programs and students. We are very fortunate to be there, but I feel as though we are living on borrowed time. Thank you, in advance, for shining the light on this important issue.

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