Imagine teaching a classroom or running a school without monitoring the students. Chaos would occur. Teachers and administrators are expected to supervise the students entrusted in their care. Perhaps some students can be trusted to do the right thing when the teacher isn’t looking but there will be students who will become out of control. They will test the limits to see what they can do without getting caught.
Apply this to the State of Illinois and what has happened within the Chicago Board of Education. The Illinois State Board of Education and the Illinois General Assembly are supposed to watch school districts. They are supposed to monitor and supervise. Are they doing that?
While the blame game about who is responsible for CPS rewriting policies that resulted in the denial of services for children with disabilities, the bottom line is that the State Board of Education is responsible for monitoring that and when that isn’t being done, the Illinois General Assembly should be acting. Many policy makers knew what was happening within the Chicago Board of Education.
There were independent reports that disclosed the information. Many of us are grateful for the work done by the Better Government Association and WBEZ. That work that should have been done by the State officials entrusted with our children’s care. They had a responsibility to read the expose from WBEZ and they had the responsibility to do something about it. When they were told about the Better Government Association report, they had a responsibility to check it out. Instead the State Board of Education didn’t monitor and the Illinois General Assembly turned their head the other way and pushed for more local control when they were working on the bill that was touted as “evidence-based funding.”
This author made a trip to Springfield to testify and explained the dangers of block-granting and removing special education personnel reimbursement. Did most legislators listen? No, instead some of them, some lobbyists and some “professional” organizations retaliated against the author for speaking out against what was happening in Chicago because what was not working there would be spread throughout the state.
One of the legislators who was at Friday’s hearing about the actions of CPS claimed he didn’t know anything about what was going on there. If he half way listened to what this author was saying he knew exactly what was happening. He now plays ignorant. Many others knew what was going on and chose to ignore it.
How did we get into this mess, and more importantly why have children been denied services:
- The State Board of Education, for whatever reasons, has not been monitoring school districts as they are supposed to do.
- Policies and procedures for special education of local school districts used to be reviewed and approved by the State Board of Education. The regulations were changed so that the policies and procedures no longer have to be approved.
- Funding for the Chicago Board of Education’s special education programs was block granted in 1995; it doesn’t have to be spent on special education personnel.
- The State Board of Education has pushed Response to Intervention, a process that they required in the special education regulations; and pushed for every student to go through RTI. The U.S. Department of Education was clear in its guidance that RTI could not be used to deny or delay an evaluation when the team suspected a disability or knew there was a disability. Some school districts saw RTI as a mechanism to avoid giving parents and students their due process rights. Children in RTI (also called MTSS) have no rights.
- Unfortunately some school district officials and advocates painted special education as bad and conveyed to families that they shouldn’t want their children in special education.
Just like in the classroom, some students will do the right thing when they are unsupervised, but classrooms still require monitoring of all students so those that choose to not follow the rules will be provided structure and routine. Students will know exactly what is expected and will be given consequences when they don’t behave. In school districts, there are many wonderful administrators and then there are those who choose to break the rules, especially when they know that there isn’t anyone watching. We need rules and regulations that set boundaries and we need enforcement of those rules. Local control may sound good but can also be disastrous for children.