The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

A Small Victory at Chicago Public Schools

Jul 23, 2018

Two years ago, Chicago Public Schools (CPS) “reformed” special education services. A state investigation this spring revealed that those reforms were illegally designed to make it very difficult for students to get those services, all in order to save money.

But activist special education teachers, parents, and advocates for the disabled did not let children’s education disappear quietly. They put these attacks in front of the press, revealing how the system worked. They organized trainings all over the city, and got teachers and parents to testify before the City Council, state legislators, and the State Board of Education.

Finally, all their hard work paid off: CPS announced that the district will hire 160 social workers and 94 Special Education Case Managers. Case Managers will oversee special education in the schools, work which has up to now always been done as an “extra” by overworked teachers.

The social workers will be assigned to specific school buildings with high needs, a big improvement in a system where almost no school had a full-time social worker. But CPS still has about 1200 students for each social worker, even though that ratio is 250 to 1 in the better-off suburbs.

These hires are nowhere near enough, yet. But by making some noise, these teachers and parents got their children much more than the district wanted to give them.