Progressive Caucus demands Claypool testify before City Council after investigation finds special ed scandal.

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CHICAGO (October 19, 2017)–The City Council Progressive Reform Caucus on Thursday demanded Chicago Public Schools CEO Forrest Claypool testify before the City Council Education Committee after a WBEZ investigative report found CPS leadership had implemented secret plans to reduce programs and support for special needs students.

“The report revealed what many CPS parents have long suspected–that likely in violation of state and federal law, CPS redirected funds intended for students with special needs, and significantly reduced the programs and specialized supportive services for special education,” said Progressive Caucus Chair Ald. Scott Waguespack (32). “These disturbing revelations deepen our already grave concerns about Mr. Claypool’s leadership.”

“Given that the last CPS CEO is sitting in federal prison right now, one would think Mr. Claypool would tread more lightly when it comes to misusing federal dollars on high paid ‘consultants’ instead of their intended purpose,” said Ald. Susan Sadlowski Garza (10), a former CPS counselor and leader in the Chicago Teachers Union. “This is nothing more than a kickback scheme. We demand answers.”

“Parents, teachers and principals have been protesting this pattern of willful neglect,” said Ald. Roderick Sawyer (6), who is also chair of the Black Caucus. “It is clear that this was a stealth scheme to slash the number of students classified as eligible for specialized services.”

The Progressive Caucus pointed to the scandal as further evidence of the need for an elected, representative school board in Chicago, instead of the current mayoral-appointed system.

“We have a moral and legal imperative to end the mistreatment and cheating of our special needs students,” said Ald. Ricardo Muñoz. “Forrest Claypool must come before the City Council and answer for these violations.”

 

In CPS it is the squeaky wheel and the color of your skin when it comes to special education services. Rahm says “they get what they deserve.”

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During our special Labor Day broadcast of Hitting Left with the Klonsky Brothers we had Troy LaRaviere as one of our guests. Troy is the former principal of Blaine elementary school and now head of the Chicago Association of Principals and Administrators.

Troy had just published a study of the race-based funding of special education services in CPS.

In the first installment of our report on racial discrimination in Chicago Public Schools we uncovered the fact that CPS officials awarded schools that serve majority white student populations 60% of the additional special education funds they requested, while awarding just 14% to majority Hispanic schools, and a paltry 9% to schools serving majority African American populations.

Now comes the second installment of a report from WBEZ’s Sarah Karp which naturally supports Troy’s findings.

Schools with significant white populations spent about $3,000 more per student on average than those with mostly Latino students, and $600 more than those with mostly black students.

Special education services are prescribed by law. But that has never kept school districts, including CPS, from trying to skirt the law, particularly when it comes to those most vulnerable: low income and Black and Brown parents and students. Unless parents band together or can afford to hire an advocate or an attorney, they are at a major disadvantage when it comes to fighting the system in the squeaky wheel system.

It’s incumbent on (parents) to know what services to request and to keep pushing for supports for their children, such as specialists, aides, and bus service, special education advocates said.

This squeaky wheel approach to service delivery was underscored last year when CPS cut special education budgets. The school district told principals they could ask for some money back if they could prove they needed it.

The social capital of parents — their socio-economic status, power, and involvement — has long factored into what services students get in special education. But in the past, when school staff agreed with parents on what a child needed, like occupational therapy or time with a social worker, that was typically enough to get services.

Now, under the rules implemented last year — laid out in a thick manual —  that agreement is only the first step. After that comes reams of documentation and outside approvals before special education services can begin.

The rules are contained in a secret document which, as Karp reported in her earlier story, cost the district $15 million in fees to consulting companies that had no experience or specific knowledge of special eduction.

Their main qualification was that they were friends of CPS CEO Forrest Claypool.

Last night I heard a reporter on the radio quoting the Mayor saying that special education students in Chicago get what they deserve. I tried Google searching the quote but can’t find it anywhere.

But I heard what I heard.

And the proof is in the funding.

Democratic Party Chairman and tax man Joe Berrios is back to his old dirty tricks.

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Sleazy Berrios flyer from the Berrios bunch.

Back in 2014 when it became clear that we had a pretty good chance of electing Will Guzzardi as the state representative of the 39th District, a four color mailer appeared in our mailbox.

Actually, we got two copies since Anne and I are both registered voters.

The ad showed dark hands on the shoulders of a white girl and suggested Will Guzzardi was a sexual predator.

It was way sleazy even by Chicago Machine standards.

Guzzardi went on to beat Toni Berrios.

Toni was state rep because her daddy, Joe Berrios, was the Chairman of the Cook County Democratic Party and he gave the seat to Toni as a present. Joe gives jobs to lots of friends and family.

Now Joe is up for re-election to his job as tax collector. He is famous for handing out tax favors to his friends just like he gave out Cook County jobs to his family.

Fritz Kaegi is running a reform campaign against Joe.

Fritz has got a good chance to win.

So the Berrios dirty tricks have started.

(CBS)  Fritz Kaegi has a mysterious problem: He’s running for Cook County assessor against a powerful politician, but someone has hijacked his online identity.

“I am Fritz Kaegi, and I am running for Cook County assessor in the Democratic primary,” Kaegi tells 2 Investigator Brad Edwards.

He’s just filed a legal action against GoDaddy, Facebook, Twitter, Crowdpac and others because someone created fake online web accounts in his name to raise campaign cash and connect with supporters.

“So, you are Fritz Kaegi?” Edwards asks the candidate.

“I am Fritz Kaegi,” he replies.

“But you are not fritzkaegi.org?” Edwards asks.

“I’m not.”

The sham websites appeared shortly after Fritz announced he would challenge incumbent Assessor Joe Berrios, chairman of the Cook County Democratic Party.

A recent fake tweet mentions “orgies,” and a press release dated Aug. 29 says Kaegi was out talking about his campaign “with a deadly hurricane raging in Texas.”

“It’s creepy,” says Kaegi’s wife, Rebecca. “My children’s names and faces are on the fictional website.”

Mrs. Kaegi is a degreed linguist. She says she smelled duplicity at first view of the website’s grammar.

So, who’s behind it?

That’s what the legal action seeks to discover. Kaegi’s camp believes a Berrios operative is to blame.

“And this is the kind of politics that are the problem in our county,” Fritz Kaegi says.

A Berrios campaign manager says the incumbent office holder had nothing to do with the fake web sites.

Any suggestion that he or his associates were involved is “absurd,” the representative says, noting the assessor “has been focused on improving the system he inherited” and not politics.

We are scheduling a date to have Fritz on our Hitting Left with the Klonsky Brothers radio show and podcast.

Sarah Karp’s report on Forrest Claypool’s secret study, special ed service cuts and outrageous consultant fees. $15 million for proof reading?

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Don’t miss the WBEZ report of special education myths and conflicts of interest. The great Sarah Karp lays it all out.

Karp is the rare Chicago investigative reporter paying attention to what is going on in a school district tied closely to the education-corporate complex of Rahm and CPS CEO Forrest Claypool. Current law prohibits representative an elected school board in Chicago.

Sarah Karp’s story follows closely a report done by the President of the Chicago Principals and Administrators Association, Troy LaRaviere.

In 2016-2017, CPS instituted a funding strategy that drastically reduced special education budgets across the district and created demands for additional resources.  CPS officials responded to the demand for more resources with a budget appeals process. If you were a principal and the resources provided to your school were inadequate, you had the option of submitting an appeal.

Karp’s WBEZ  goes further and uncovers a secret study that has been used by CPS to dramatically reduce special education services. Under the guise of reducing the learning gap between special education and typical students, the actual intent is to save money by cutting services.

Longtime advocate Rod Estvan said officials were correct about the stagnant, troubling achievement gap between special education students and their peers, but he noted that about half of special education students have learning disabilities, which can make it difficult for them to perform on standardized tests.

Estvan works for Chicago’s premier disability rights group, Access Living, and spent six years monitoring CPS’ special education as part of a federal consent decree that has since been lifted. He said he is outraged that CPS’ solution was to withdraw resources.

Many of the report’s contentions — and hence the justification for the overhaul — are just plain wrong, including that CPS has too many students in special education and is spending too much on staff, he charged.

To counter the argument that CPS puts too many students in special education, he said that CPS’ percentage of special education students mirrors the national average of 13 percent. And Chicago’s average is less than many big city school districts, including New York, Boston, and Philadelphia, according to 2014 to 2015 data compiled by the National Center for Education Statistics.

Karp counter’s Claypool’s argument that CPS has been over-identifying special needs students.

CPS’ report claimed that the school district is over-identifying black and Latino males for special education in particular. But a Better Government Association analysis this year disputed that claim. While those students make up 43 percent of the student body, they account for only 38 percent of students in special education, the BGA found. White males make up only 5 percent of the student body but account for 15 percent of special needs students.

Most damning is the issue of unethical conduct by Claypool in the hiring of consultants.

These big professional service contracts began under Claypool, who took over CPS in the summer of 2015, and have grown exponentially under his administration. Many of these contractors have long-standing professional ties to Claypool and his team. Altogether, these three firms have been paid more than $14 million under these deals since October of 2015.

Denise Little, a senior advisor to Claypool, downplayed the role of the consultants. Little said she and other CPS officials wrote the protocols and that the consultants essentially edited them.

Fifteen million bucks for proof reading a secret report?

Who do they think they are kidding?

Raise Your Hand has a letter you can sign demanding Claypool’s resignation:

http://www.ilraiseyourhand.org/claypool_letter

Palatine para-professionals aren’t worth an 11 cent raise but they are too essential to allow them to strike.

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On Monday 454 workers at one of the state’s largest elementary districts, covering all or part of Palatine, Rolling Meadows, Hoffman Estates, Inverness, South Barrington, Arlington Heights and Schaumburg went on strike.

A judge has ordered some back to work.

They are too essential to allow them to strike.

But not worth an 11 cent an hour raise.

Schools remain open for the district’s roughly 12,800 students, in part because the teachers’ contract disallows them from honoring the support employees’ picket lines.

Me? I would never cross a union sister or brother’s strike line even if it made me illegal.

About 450 members of the Education Support Personnel Association, an Illinois Education Association affiliate, went on strike Monday after contract negotiations broke down. School district officials filed suit Monday to keep some of those workers from striking, and Cook County Judge Neil Cohen issued the temporary restraining order in response.

Bridget Shanahan, a spokeswoman for the union’s parent group, the Illinois Education Association, said members will abide by the decision but that remaining strikers would stay on the picket line and will fight to reverse the ruling in court.

“On the one hand, the district will not give these people a raise as low as 11 to 25 cents an hour, and on the other hand, they’re going to court to bring them back to work because they’re so essential,” Shanahan said. “These people are essential, and we feel they should be compensated fairly.”

Before the judge’s ruling a rally was planned for 3PM on Wednesday, October 18th. The time has been changed to 9 AM,  still gathering at 223 E. Northwest Hwy in Palatine.

My name is Angie and I am the President of the Education Support Personnel Association (ESPA) from District 15. You may have heard that we recently made the hardest decision anyone can make at work, we voted to go on strike.

Who are we?

ESPA members are secretaries, clericals, classrooms aides, nurses, and sign language interpreters for District 15, which is the second largest school district in Illinois. We work hard every day to make sure that our students’ needs are met, yet we are barely able to support our own families. Many of us earn roughly $12,000 per year, which means most of us have to work two or three jobs just to make ends meet.

 Will you stand up for good jobs in Palatine?

For months we have been at the table, seeking a fair contract with adequate wage increases and benefits. Our members work with the most vulnerable students in the district and also happen to be among the lowest paid. We provide a better future for our students and our community. A majority of us live in Palatine and the surrounding area. If you are like us and believe that District 15 should not perpetuate poverty in our community, will you stand with us?

We will meet at 223 E Northwest Hwy for a rally.

When we stand together, we can make a positive impact on our community.

In Solidarity, Angie Drazkowski

ESPA President

Illinois teacher retirees: What the hell is Walgreen’s up to?

From the Illinois Retired Teachers Association:

One of our members was picking up a prescription at Walgreens and was told by the pharmacy tech that Walgreens was changing what they charge for prescription. 

The member was then given a toll free number to call to find out about the details.

The number connected him to a third party seller of Medicare Insurance where they told him they could get him a better plan for less…

…………….PLEASE BE AWARE………….

If you opt out of the Teachers Retirement

Insurance Program you CANNOT opt back in.

 These types of sales tactics can be very misleading and confusing.

 If you have any questions please call the IRTA at 1-800-728-4782.

The Chicago Trib’s scab columnist John Kass calls me a fanatic.

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The Chicago Trib’s John Kass. Photo: Fred Klonsky

It wasn’t exactly a Twitter war.

It was just John Kass being John Kass.

Chicago media blogger, Robert Feder tweeted.

So, I did a RT and added:

Let me explain. Kristen McQueary is the Chicago Tribune columnist who is such a fanatic when it comes to teachers, public schools and teacher unions that she is most famous for penning a column in which she wished for a hurricane the size of Katrina to visit itself upon our city and destroy our public schools.

That column wasn’t a one-off for McQueary. That is her role for the Trib, which has a stable of union-hating, teacher-bashing writers and reporters.

Including John Kass.

Kass is a suburbanite who likes the idea of the city but not the reality of living here. Some have suggested he wishes he was the legendary Mike Royko but doesn’t have nearly the working class instincts, intellect or wit for the job.

John Kass was a scab who saved his own job by crossing the picket lines when the Tribune broke the Chicago Typographic Union strike years ago.

It is hard to imagine Royko as a scab. It is easy to imagine Kass as one.

Kass felt the need to comment on my McQueary tweet to establish his journalistic solidarity, I suppose.

Those Trib columnists sure show know how to show their solidarity.

Except when their fellow Trib employees go on strike.

As for Kristen McQueary. I still hope that she loses her job.

Who’s she going to go to for help?

The union?