Below are statements made by several CPS parents at February's unelected BOE meeting.
Mary Hughes, parent and LSC member at Cassell Elementary and Chicago Agricultural High School
My name is Mary Hughes with 19th Ward Parents for Spec Ed.
I've given you a letter detailing how CPS's commingling of special ed and gen ed funds and the procedural changes that are designed to delay and deny services are hurting children who have special needs within CPS. I have been in multiple conversations with different parents of children who need paraprofessional support, who have said that it will take a child being gravely injured or killed due to these budget gutting policies for anyone to pay attention.
On January 25, Rosario Gomez, a 14-year-old boy, who had autism, who used an augmentative communication device, who had a paraprofessional through his 8th Grade year that was removed from his IEP in this, his freshman year at his October 2016 IEP meeting, drowned during gym class at Kennedy High School. Can you please pay attention to the safety concerns surrounding paraprofessional supports now? I ask you to eliminate Network and Principal override of IEP-Team staffing decisions and provide funding at the school level for the paraprofessional support that keeps our children safe. If only Rosario had had a paraprofessional who had been watching him from the side of the pool, he might still be alive. You can glibly use your "Sophie's Choice" analogy, but I assert that Rosario Gomez' death is directly related to the use of special education budget gatekeepers.
Ms. Ward, I appreciate your promise to look deeper into special ed funding. I assert that there is a direct correlation between per-pupil funding and the inevitable increased class size and the rising numbers of students needing special ed services. In the past, where a child with special needs might have been in a classroom with 27 kids with a veteran teacher (who principals can't afford to hire) and classroom assistant, they may have done okay and done without the need for special ed. However, in a classroom of 35+, with an inexperienced teacher, that same student needs special education. Special education need has increased due to per pupil funding and your policies.
Jeff Young, parent and LSC member at Darwin Elementary
My name is Jeff Young, and I am a parent-representative on the Local School Council of Darwin Elementary.
Earlier in the meeting, Mr. Guzman had asked Mr. Denard for more details on the extent of the cuts in each school, and I am here to do just that.
Darwin experienced a 3.5% cut to our budget totalling $151,303.81. At Darwin we are 81%, for lack of a better term, poor and 86% Latino. I was very heartened to hear Mr. Clark's recognition of the disproportionate affect of these cuts on primarily Latino schools, about the appeal process, and I will be encouraging our principal to do that.
Darwin, as a result of this cut:
We have made great strides over the last few years, moving from a level 3 to a level 1 school. These continued cuts to our budget make it very difficult to continue our progress towards 1+. Thank you.
Roberta Salas, parent and LSC member at Murphy Elementary
Good morning. My name is Roberta Salas, and I am a parent of two children who attend Murphy Elementary, our neighborhood district-run school. I’m an elected representative of our Local School Council, and I’m an active member of Raise Your Hand. I also work full time, so you know what I’m giving up to be here to say that the most recent round of budget cuts are another devastating blow to our public schools. I’m not going to bother you with the list of what we cut because what matters is they are all things that we need. However, I will kindly ask Mr. Claypool not to send us any more letters to be distributed to families because we don’t have the paper to print them.
The stress and anxiety in these schools is unprecedented, and these unending rounds of cuts add to that. It affects all of us at all levels. Our children do not know if their counselor or SECA or after-school program will be there the next day. Do you have any idea how much time and money it takes us as parents, along with our teachers, to try to get all of our students through the school year because the institution that is responsible does not step up? It is no coincidence that the uncontrolled violence in this city has spiked dramatically after so many schools were closed, and the ones that are left are starved to death. It’s no coincidence that when you slash and burn through these neighborhood institutions, the impact is going to be felt throughout the city.
I’ve come to many of these meeting and heard many concrete and doable suggestions for ways to move forward to fix these problems. Our organization, Raise Your Hand, is just one of many groups that have proposed detailed ways to cut as well as generate revenue, and yet we are left with one doomsday scenario after another with no Plan B or Plan C except to chip away at our ever-dwindling budget. So far, none of us can figure out what your big picture is. What is your plan? We all know how we got here so please stop blaming others and treating us like obstacles and work with us to find solutions.
Becca Blue, parent at Sutherland Elementary
Good morning. My name is Becca Blue. I am a mother of three children at Sutherland Elementary and a tax paying resident of the 19th ward.
"The reason you are getting this is because your alderman was nice to me.”
This was said on February 11th by Mayor Rahm Emanuel about 19th ward alderman Matt O'Shea concerning the capital improvements proposed for Mount Greenwood and Esmond Elementary schools.
This "announcement" was made to a hand selected group of parents - and not made public until moments before the Mount Greenwood meeting began. By making this an "announcement” rather than the beginning of a public discussion, the mayor and the alderman seemingly made up their own playbook on who gets what, who is told what and when.
Presenting this announcement as a done deal pits parents against one another and is yet another example of the mayor and the alderman telling me they know what is best for my children-for our wards children- without ever having asked us.
I am not denying that Esmond DESPERATELY needs these repairs. They do. I am not saying that Mount Greenwood isn't overcrowded. They are. Although I must add that persistent requests for an attendance audit have been completely ignored. It is CPS's own shortsightedness that Mount Greenwood’s solution is to receive yet another annex rather than a more holistic solution. Mt. Greenwood was the last 19th ward school to receive capital improvements. Another $40 million will go to just two out of the ten CPS schools in the 19th ward.
Not because we know from data and discussion that it's what’s needed- but because our alderman was nice to the mayor.
I cannot ignore this nagging question in the back of my head. Why is this being pushed forward right now? Is it because the construction will not begin until 2019 which also just happens to coincide with the mayor and the alderman's re-election campaign season? Perhaps Alderman O'Shea knew the backlash he would receive or perhaps the voting block he would not receive if he didn’t make it happen now.
This whole plan was rolled out like a glorified press event completely devoid of the transparency we have been calling for or the community input we have been begging for since Alderman O’Shea and the mayor tried to close or combine three public schools last year.
"I am proud to say you will have the 21st century facility to match your 21st century education," the mayor remarked to the Mount Greenwood parents that were assembled.
I am happy that Mount Greenwood will be getting that for their children, while the rest of the ward sits back in the 20th century hoping that maybe one day the alderman will be nice enough for the rest of our children too.