Oct 30, 2017
A reporter in Chicago has blown the lid off what every special education teacher in the city already knew: Chicago Public Schools (CPS) made a concerted effort to balance its budget on the backs of special education students. Sarah Karp, working for the local public radio station, found that the School Board had a secret policy manual, prepared by bean-counting consultants.
Teachers had already seen the impact of the policies called for in this manual. First of all, CPS tried to prevent students from getting services by putting bureaucratic and paperwork hurdles in front of them. For example, the process of getting a one-on-one aide for students with high needs used to involve filling out a six-page form. At the beginning of last year that was replaced with a form that was more than 40 pages long!
They also added a requirement that an adult log student behavior every 10 minutes. Right when they were cutting staff, they were asking teachers and aides to stop teaching so they could enter useless data in a form – making it impossible to provide special education services.
CPS also cut bus services for many disabled pre-school students – at least until parents made enough of an outcry that CPS reinstated the buses.
And CPS cut participation in the extended summer school program in half. Again, they did it by placing a huge paperwork hurdle in front of teachers and parents.
CPS claims that it undertook these policies because many students in special education showed little improvement on their test scores. CPS proved the lie of this excuse by doing the opposite of logic. If test scores aren’t going up very fast, how will cutting programs and adding paperwork help?
They also claimed that black and Hispanic boys are more likely to be identified as needing special education than white boys. This should be no surprise given the higher rates of poverty faced by these students. Any teacher can tell you that poverty contributes to all kinds of learning problems. And how exactly does CPS think cutting services would help these students?
It’s clear that the policies CPS put in its manual, dictated by private consultants, were NOT about educating anyone. They were about saving money – at the expense of the students who need the most help.