Wednesday, October 25, was all about special education advocacy and action in Chicago!
Parents and elected officials joined together for a press conference before the unelected Board of Education meeting. Then, parents attended the BOE meeting and several spoke. A link to the video of the press conference is below as well as text of the BOE statements.
Responding to a WBEZ investigation, parents descend on CPS
Parents were joined by some elected officials at a press conference before the BOE meeting.
Parents then attended and spoke the BOE meeting. Below are a few statements.
Terri Smith, CPS Parent & Special Education Advocate
As a parent, becoming aware that which Special Education services my disabled daughter qualifies for is determined by bean counters, algorithms, and cost benefit analyses, and NOT by a team of qualified professionals was a slow and painful process.
That the CPS power structure is comprised of people who see fit to sacrifice the educational needs and physical safety of disabled children in order to satisfy their balance sheet defied my standard of basic human decency. The very notion would have been inconceivable to me before I entered the special education world in CPS.
As a volunteer advocate having attended over 30 IEP meetings last year, this deplorable, undignified state of affairs is an inescapable fact of life.
I am not alone. Month after month, in these very chambers, Special Ed parents testify about the ways in which the unjust practices being endured by our families are impacting our disabled children in CPS schools. We are not rebel-rousers. We appeal to you as a last resort. We have nowhere else to turn.
Adding insult to injury, the Board has consistently responded to our desperation with indifference, denial, hostility, empty promises and personal insult. You have gone so far as to discredit us by challenging us to “PROVE IT” when we tell you what is happening to our children.
Now you have your proof. WBEZ’s meticulously researched report exposed the shameful reality of Special Education Administration in CPS for the public record.
It is now a matter of FACT that CEO Claypool lied to us when he denied cutting funds to Special Ed.
It is now a matter of FACT that CPS PAID 14 million dollars to a private consultancy with ties to CEO Claypool and no background in education policy to create a Special Ed manual that formalizes policies and procedures that:
* Subvert the authority of IEP teams;
* Undermine the effectiveness of Individualized Education Plans by standardizing the provision of services according to disability category rather than individual need;
* Institutionalize documentation requirements designed to methodically delay, deny and withdraw the provision of Special Education and related services to disabled children in CPS
These are facts. You have your proof. Now what are you going to do about it?
* You who have been complicit in the wholesale violation of our children’s civil rights.
* You who have neglected your obligation to the most vulnerable children under your charge.
* You who have violated the public trust and misallocated funds
How will YOU use the power of your position to ensure that CPS does right by your Special Education students?
The day of reckoning has finally come. It’s never too late to right a wrong. What are you going to do?
You can start today by denying Mr. Claypool’s request for an additional 2.5 million dollars for consultants.
Andrea Tolzmann, RYH Board Member
My name is Andrea Tolzmann and I am with Raise Your Hand.
Today you have heard from many parents of Diverse Learners who are outraged, frustrated and saddened by the way this Board and CPS leadership have failed their kids again. CEO Claypool and President Clark, at past Board meetings you have flippantly disregarded statements made by the parents and educators of our Diverse Learners. You have even challenged the honesty and integrity of speakers who have shared the personal stories and experiences of their children while at school. But we keep coming back because we have something important to say and we hope today will be the day that this Board embraces the future and well-being of our most vulnerable students by removing financial and bureaucratic hurdles for Special Education. Just today, Mr. Claypool doubled down on new MTSS data collection and procedures. Put your talking points aside and address the pressing needs of students in special ed including the disparity in spending on black and brown students in special ed who are receiving $3,000 less on their education than their white peers, per the WBEZ analysis.
Raise Your Hand has publicly questioned the decision-making tactics and expensive contracts to well-connected cronies of CEO Claypool for years. For some reason, this Board continues to approve of spending tens of millions of dollars to consultants, contractors, and law firms who are politically linked to Forrest Claypool. On today’s agenda, Claypool is asking for another $2.5 million for contractors. Please put the brakes on this until the special ed situation is sorted out!
Raise Your Hand’s Special Education committee presented a letter to the Mayor last week regarding the sorry state of special ed at CPS and over 1000 people have signed the letter in a week!
Following are some of the demands that this Board has the control to change:
Eliminate middle-management funding gatekeeper positions, added to implement the July 2016 CPS Special Education Procedural Manual’s restrictions and directives;
Follow Federal I-D-E-A Guidelines by eliminating burdensome and duplicative data collection and service-justification forms that keep special education staff away from direct service to students in the classroom;
Restore busing service to all CPS students with special needs, based on what an IEP or 504 Team deems appropriate;
Cancel the contracts with Crowe Horwath, PricewaterhouseCoopers, and KPMG intended to systematically restrict provision of special education services;
As reported by WBEZ, the CPS Special Education Procedural Manual was created secretly and it needs to be scrapped altogether! In light of Federal changes to diminish the rights of students with special needs, this Board should work even harder now to protect the rights and individual needs of our Diverse Learner population!
Jennifer Jones, Raise Your Hand Action Board Member
Good afternoon, I’m Jennifer Jones, a parent of two children in CPS. I’ve printed a copy for you to see what a special ed parent encounters when they visit on The Office of Diverse Learners Support and Services’ website. There is one general phone number, a link to impersonal white page, and a 95 page Procedural Manual signed by the former ODLSS Chief Officer in August 2016. This is the stark gateway that parents encounter when they look for support and services for their special needs children.
When I called the office recently, it took 10 minutes for someone just to find out who my child’s district rep is...and then they could only provide an email because she doesn’t have a published phone number. It is concerning that there is no organizational chart readily available. A google search of neighboring school district special ed pages, showed me that this is not the norm. Take a look at a few suburban sites...you’ll see exactly who to contact for assistance, helpful links to guide parents through IEPs, a bounty of district special ed resources and collaborative initiatives.
I heard Mr. Claypool on a recent radio interview say that he wants feedback from parents about special ed. Well then, please give us the the tools to give feedback because right now there is no system on the site to do so, only a general email address.
Mr. Claypool also spoke about a task force of parents, teachers and principals who were involved in the creation of the special ed manual, but the task force isn’t cited. Parents want to know who created the guidelines that will impact their children. We want a partnership, but there is a lack of information sharing.
I hope that you will make efforts to change this impersonal and frankly unhelpful resource to something that is informative and collaborative. Parents shouldn’t have to submit a FOIA request for an org chart to find contacts for public positions. In the current climate, it’s very difficult to discern what is true and accurate. We need transparency more than ever and clarity around the ODLSS department would be a very good start. Will any of you give your commitment to a follow up discussion about this?
Christine Palmieri, CPS Parent & Chicago SpedPAC Director
Hi my name is Christine Palmieri, I have a 4th grader with Autism in a northside elementary school. I’ve been coming in front of this board since the summer of 2016 sounding the alarm on an unjust special education procedural manual, lengthy paraprofessional justification form, and purposeful, deceitful cuts to special ed funding.
My son received an aide after months of illegal delays, funding denials and thousands in legal fees last year. He’s trying to catch up after serious regression due to long term lack of appropriate supports. He is still denied OT, Speech therapy and appropriate social work minutes. This year CPS arbitrarily cut his aide, meaning we again had to fight to keep and fund his position.
Schools, including mine, are regularly forced to use gen ed monies to fund special education.
Tens of million of dollars intended for special education were cut last year via the 4% holdback scheme. The Chicago SpedPAC is demanding that this board disclose where those funds - intended for our schools and SPECIAL EDUCATION - went.
Schools were again shorted special education teachers and aides this year. They were told to appeal for the needed positions, but many schools have not received them. A principal must provide an IEP minute breakdown justification, which a Network Chief must approve before submitting. Why does the appeal then go to another ODLSS board? A secret board compiled of people who do not know our students behind closed doors; where these appeals sit for months only to be denied.
There are currently students, many with needs similar to my own child's - waiting for special education teachers and aides that they need! We know what you are trying to do; the 'data' is clear: my family lived through it and my child suffered because of it last year.
In light of the WBEZ report, and on behalf of the Chicago SpedPAC -we are demanding that ALL OPEN APPEALS from schools in desperate need for sped teachers and SECAS for this school year be cleared, approved and funded by ODLSS by the first of November. We will be following up with the assistance of our media friends to ensure these immediate needs are met promptly by this board.
Keep sharing our letter to demand that CPS ditch their flawed special education manual and fire Claypool over this debacle.