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: