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.