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CPS Lawbreaking continues as ISBE investigates special ed services for violations of state and federal law... Most vulnerable students denied services... CPS continues violating Illinois special education rules

In what is becoming a regular occurrence with the Chicago Public Schools, the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) has opened an investigation (Case Number 2013-0397) into the systemic violation of caseload requirements for speech/language therapists. The complaint is part of a 7-month Chicago Teachers Union investigation into the school district’s violation of State School Code. The law is very specific in this case with no room for interpretation or manipulation by slick lawyers working on the 7th floor of 125 S. Clark Street.

One year ago, the current CPS chief of special education was in Cincinnati, where, for reasons which no one in Chicago was asked to explain, she was discovered by CPS officials and brought to Chicago. Markay Winston (above with glasses and chin on her hand) was hired by a unanimous vote of the Chicago Board of Education at its July 2012 meeting at an annual salary of $170,000 per year, even though she knew nothing about Chicago, had never taught in Chicago schools, and had only been vetted for Chicago school administration through the Broad Foundation. Above, Winston is shown at the December 2012 Board of Education meeting, seated behind Akeshia Craven, a former engineer who spent a couple of years as a CPS administrator. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt. The Chicago Teachers Union filed a formal complaint as a grievance to recover wages for the extra work the Speech Language therapists were ordered to perform by the Chicago Board of Education. In what was a simple case of compensation for extra work, the CPS Office of Labor Relations refused to settle the Union claims and decided to ignore the facts of the case. CPS was in possession of all the facts. In responding to the Union, the Board admitted that CPS administrators had access to and have the records relevant to the Union’s concerns.

The Board decided to selectively look into the matter by cherry picking data the named grievant's caseload. Their response was as follows:

“September - 56 students, October - 60 students, November – 57 students. Thus, Chicago Public Schools was in compliance with the caseload regulations.”

In fact, the Union did present data that contradicted its response proving beyond a reasonable doubt that there were caseloads over the State limit of 60.

After receiving the Board’s response, it was clear that the district was attempting to cover up systemic violations of the Sate School Code. The Board had all the IMPACT records that show the violation of State law, and the Union hoped to resolve the situation without further litigation. The problem was that the Board’s response proves that the district administrators looked into the matter, yet took the position that violations of State law did not exist. The Union’s grievance was very specific as is the law. The board is obligated by the law to thoroughly investigate claims regarding violations as it relates to denial of services (i.e. workloads for special education services) and possible discrimination against a certain class of individuals, especially those with disabilities.

Therefore, the Union decided it was time to contact outside agencies to not only investigate the violation of State law but also the possible denial of special education services to Chicago students. The Union is further asking that an investigation look into why the district would attempt to cover-up special education violations.

23 Illinois Administrative Code, 226.735,

c) The number of children served by a speech-language pathologist shall be based on the speech-language needs of each child. The other provisions of this Section notwithsfanding, at no time shall the caseload of a speech-language pathologist exceed 60 students

In another recent case involving special education services for preschool children and the development of Individualized Education Plans for these most vulnerable students in the system. As reported in Medill Reports Chicago, January 17, 2013, the lead attorney for this case is clear to state the brazen lawbreaking of Chicago Public Schools “If you have a child who is being referred who has a diagnosis of Down syndrome, there is no reason CPS would need to do a new psychological evaluation of that child,” Amy Zimmerman, the lead attorney on the complaint said, referring to her clients lack of evaluations services for their child by CPS.

If readers remember, there was the Binding Opinion (13-0001) from the Illinois Attorney General in regards to the refusal of the CPS to provide information on how it will keep staff and students safe. It is clear now that the Chicago Board of Education has not interest to follow the law but will continue its practices until their law-breaking is reported and stopped.

The current lawbreaking by the Board of Education is not unprecedented, but the blatant disregard for the rule of law reminds one of the Dissenting Opinion of Justice Brandeis in the 1928 Olmstead v. United States court case, "Our government is the potent, the omnipresent teacher. For the good or for ill it teaches the whole people by its example. Crime is contagious. If the government becomes a lawbreaker, it breeds contempt for law, it invites every man to become a law unto himself, it invites anarchy." (277 U.S. 438)

The new ISBE investigation is reprinted below: Illinois Sate Board of Education, 100 N. 1st Street

Springfield, IL 62777-0001

April 12, 2013

Ms. Markay Winston, Chief Officer, Office of Diverse Learner Supports and Services, City of Chicago School District 299, 125 South Clark Street, Chicago, IL 60603

and

Ms. Barbara Bennett, Chief Executive Officer, City of Chicago School District 299, 125 South Clark Street, Chicago, IL 60603

Re: City of Chicago Systemic Complaint

Speech/Language Caseloads

Case Number 2013-0397

Dear Ms. Winston and Ms. Bennett:

This agency is in receipt of a March 27, 2013 complaint from Dr. John Kugler, a citywide field representative of the Chicago Teachers Union, regarding the caseloads of speech/language pathologists in the district. Federal regulations require that the State Board of Education adopt procedures for investigating and resolving complaints alleging a violation of one of the statutes or regulations regarding the provision of special education to students.

Copy of Complaint for School District

The Federal Regulations at 34 CFR 300.153(d) require that the party filing a complaint with this agency also forward a copy of the complaint to the school district that is serving the child. In an effort to assist with this requirement, we are enclosing a copy of the formal complaint with this correspondence.

Complaint Timelines

Federal regulations require that only alleged violations occurring not more than one year prior to the date on which the complaint is received be investigated. Any issues prior to that time will not become a part of the investigative process. Federal regulations require that complaints be investigated and findings identified within sixty (60) days, unless exceptional circumstances require an extension of time to properly investigate and resolve the complaint. Such extensions will be determined on an individual basis by the complaint investigator.

Summary of Complaint

The complainant alleges a systemic violation of caseload requirements for Speech/language therapists in the district, which has resulted in the denial of appropriate services to students. The complainant states the district has been aware of this issue but has not taken action to correct it.

Possible Violations

The following requirements are relevant to the investigation of this complaint:

23 Illinois Administrative Code, 226.735, which states in relevant part

c) The number of children served by a speech-language pathologist shall be based on the speech-language needs of each child. The other provisions of this Section notwithstanding, at no time shall the caseload of a speech-language pathologist exceed 60 students.

Requested Information

In order to determine whether there have been any violations of any statutes or regulations, the district must provide me with the following documents and information as soon as possible, but no later than May 10, 2013.

1. A response to the issue identified in the complaint.

2. A monthly list of students on the caseload of Staff #1-9 (see Attachment)

3. Documentation (e.g. log of services for each student, daily/weekly staff schedule showing students served) of the speech/language services received by the students on the caseload of Staff #1-9 during the 2012- 2013 school year. This documentation should also include the amount of speech/language services that has been required by the Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) in effect for each student during the 2012-2013 school year.

4. A list of students currently on the caseload of Staff #10-19.

5. Any additional documentation you would like to provide relative to the issue in this case or an explanation of any resolutions regarding this complaint.

In the event that the requested documentation is not received within the identified time frame, the agency will proceed with the investigation based upon the information previously submitted by the parties and issue a letter of findings within the original timeline.

Additional Issues/Findinqs

If information reviewed during the course of the investigation identifies a possible additional area of noncompliance not alleged by the complainant, the assigned complaint investigator will contact the district to request additional information/documentation to support or refute the suspected area(s) of concern.

Additionally, if needed, the assigned complaint investigator will contact the complainant for further clarification of the issue(s). If, after reviewing the additional information, ISBE determines that the district is not in compliance with an additional area that was not alleged in the original complaint, the issue will be addressed in the letter of finding and corrective action will be required. This will occur within the required sixty (60) day timeline, unless extended due to exceptional circumstances.

Retaliation

All parties involved in the complaint are reminded that persons who may initiate a complaint or a due process hearing or provide information or testimony at such hearings are protected from retaliation. No person may discharge, intimidate, retaliate, threaten, coerce, or otherwise take adverse action against any person because such person has filed a complaint, testified, furnished information, assisted or participated in any manner in a meeting, hearing, review, investigation, or other activity related to the administration of, exercise of authority under, or right secured by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act(IDEA), P.L. 108-446. Issues involving harassment, discrimination and/or retaliation may be addressed through the Office of Civil Rights at 3121730-1 560.

Closing

Should either party have additional documentation which they would like to have reviewed as part of the investigation, please submit the information to my attention by the date noted above. I look forward to working with you to resolve these issues in an expeditious manner. If you have any questions regarding this matter, please feel free to contact me [redacted]

Sincerely,

Mark Conyer

Principal Education Consultant

Special Education Services Division

cc: Dr. John Kugler, Complainant (Letter and Attachment only)

Mr. Luis A. Rodriguez, SD 299 ODLSS Dispute Resolution Director

Ms. Ann Horton, ISBE Special Education- Chicago Division Supervisor

Enclosures: Letter of Complaint

February 28, 2013 Letter from Complainant to Mr. Thomas Krieger

Attachment



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