ISBE report: CPS special ed services “delayed and denied.”

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A special investigative team of the Illinois State Board of Education reported what special ed parents and teachers already knew: Services have been intentionally delayed and denied.

WBEZ reporter Sarah Karp – who has been on this story like a dog on a bone – summed up the report this way:

It’s important to start by saying that this type of inquiry by the state board of education is unprecedented. The state charged a panel of lawyers to do a very thorough investigation.

They collected more than 8,000 pages of documents and held community meetings and official hearings that included hours and hours of testimony.

The findings are very technical. Special education is complicated and dictated by many laws and rules.

But here’s the bottom line: For the most part, the state panel found systemic problems with the procedures put in place by Chicago Public Schools in the 2016-2017 school year. The panel said some of these new procedures, which are still in place this year, resulted in delays in support for kids or in some cases wrongful denials.

The inquiry team also found that the appeals system put in place for schools to ask for more help for their students was ineffective and led to even more delays and denials.

Here is the press conference held at the State of Illinois Thompson Center in Chicago prior to the ISBE meeting yesterday, Wednesday.

CEO Janice Jackson says she’s no longer using the connected consultants brought in by former Rahm fixer – CPS CEO, Forrest Claypool.

Karp’s reports pointed the finger at Claypool’s connected consultants as those who were mostly ignorant of special education needs and purposes but that created the delay and deny process.

Parents and school advocates remain vigilant.

Raise Your Hand, one such advocacy group posted:

“We are pleased to share that the IL State Board of Education (ISBE) special education panel agreed with the major assertions that 14 organizations made that CPS put in place systemic policies to delay and deny services to students since July 2016. The panel shared its findings at the ISBE board meeting today.

We now must ensure that ISBE puts strong remedies in place for corrective action. The Advocates groups (including RYH) are calling for a 5-year independent monitor to oversee special education and $10M in compensatory services, among other requests that would help ensure children and families receive necessary services.”

Autism awareness. Aspergers no more.

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Dr. Hans Asperger.

The year after I retired from teaching in 2012, the the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 5 (DSM5) did away with the category of Asperger’s Syndrome.

I taught in a school in a small district. For reasons mainly having to do with resources, the school district sent most of the town’s students who had certain specific identified special needs, including autism spectrum disorder, to our school.

I am proud of what we did in response, which included the practice of full inclusion of students with special needs in classrooms with typical students as often as possible. It was almost always possible.

In the years since I retired, I have heard that the district’s practice of clustering special needs students at one school ended. I don’t know if inclusion is the practice in all the schools that students in my old district attend.

I hope so.

When I taught, Asperger’s Syndrome was still designated as a distinct condition. Now it has been folded into autism spectrum disorder since the 2013 DSM5.

I was thinking about this because April has been designated as Autism Awareness Month.

The Autism Awareness Month symbol is a puzzle ribbon.

There is debate about the symbol for people with autism as a puzzle. 

As a teacher and a person who isn’t autistic I have never been comfortable with the puzzle symbol for autism. I believe that all of my students are a kind puzzle to adults.

I observed that in my inclusive art room it often seemed to me that the differences among students on the autism spectrum were often as varied as between any one of them and a random typical student or among typical students. Classrooms are made up of children, all of whom are on a spectrum of interest, ability and personality. The puzzle for a teacher is figuring out what those interests, abilities and personalities are.

I know that labels in the DSM5 have implications for resources, funding and implementation of special education laws.

There is always a battle by parents and teachers for adequate resources.

However, having read Edith Sheffer’s column in the New York Times yesterday, I’m glad they did away with the name if not the category of Asperger’s Syndrome.

According to Sheffer, Dr. Hans Asperger was a Nazi.

The labeling of children as having the characteristics named for Asperger often led to their death in Nazi psychiatric hospitals such as Am Spiegelgrund, in Vienna.

One of his patients, 5-year-old Elisabeth Schreiber, could speak only one word, “mama.” A nurse reported that she was “very affectionate” and, “if treated strictly, cries and hugs the nurse.” Elisabeth was killed, and her brain kept in a collection of over 400 children’s brains for research in Spiegelgrund’s cellar.

One of the unintended results of the decision to do away with the diagnosis of Asperger’s Syndrome in the DSM5 is that we know longer honor Dr. Asperger by naming a condition after him.

 

If federal and state statutes drive funding and staffing levels, how is it that CPS can choose to ignore or follow them at will? And why can’t other Illinois districts do the same under SB1? Bev Johns responds.

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CPS CEO Forrest Claypool.

The first thing to remember is that in all things education there is Chicago and then there is the rest of Illinois.

The same rules rarely apply.

Most of the state’s poor and students of color live in Chicago and Cook County. When bad things happen they usually happen here first and then travel down state.

For years, special education funding to CPS has been in the form of a block grant, with no guarantees of how it will be spent. In recent years the money has been co-mingled with general education funding. There were no guarantees that special education funds would result in direct and dedicated funding for Special Education teachers or at what ratio of teacher to student.

CPS has now told parents it will no longer co-mingle the general education and special education dollars in their block grants. If true, this is a win.

Meanwhile the legislature has sent to the governor a school funding formula, Senate Bill 1, which will send special education dollars to districts as block grants as they have always done to CPS, allowing for co-mingling of general education and special education dollars. The state will no longer require direct and dedicated funding for special education teachers.

Interesting that when I asked my state representative, Will Guzzardi, about this part of SB1, he told me, “As far as the number of teachers, staffing ratios for special ed are written into federal and state statute; it’s those ratios, not the funding line item, that as I understand it are the driver of how districts staff up.”

So, I am confused.

If federal and state statutes drive funding and staffing levels, how is it that CPS can choose to ignore  or follow them at will.

And why can’t other Illinois districts do the same under SB1?

From Bev Johns:

Fred,

“As far as the number of teachers, staffing ratios for special ed are written into federal and state statute; it’s those ratios, not the funding line item, that as I understand it are the driver of how districts staff up.”

There is NO Federal or Illinois statute on number of teachers or staffing ratios for special ed.

There is NO Federal regulation on number of teachers or staffing ratios for special ed.

There is NO Illinois regulation on number of teachers or staffing ratios for special ed.

There is an Illinois regulation that says each local school district is supposed to have its own special education teacher workload rule, but many do not, and those that do say workload will be individually determined or have extremely high limits or are very vague statements that limit nothing. (ISBE does NOT approve or even receive a copy of these local school limits.)

Union-bashing charter operator wants equitable school funding? C’mon.

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CTU legislative director Stacy Davis Gates and ChiACTS president Chris Bearhend on last weeks Hitting Left with the Klonsky Brothers. 

No sooner had I posted the testimony that Bev Johns’ will deliver later today before an Illinois House Committee on SB1 (scroll down) when I came upon Michael Milkie’s op-ed in the Sun-Times.

Some legislators – even progressive ones – are confused about SB1 since it has been sold as bringing equity to state school funding.

It does no such thing.

It simply redivides crumbs but fails to provide adequacy.

First a word about Milkie.

He heads Chicago’s largest network of charter schools. When Andrew Broy, president of the Illinois Network of Charter Schools tells the Tribune, “Chicago has become the epicenter of charter union organizing in the country,” he certainly has Milkie’s Noble Charters in mind.

Noble and Milkie are the epicenter of charter teacher union resistance.

Charter teacher union ChiACTS’ President Chris Baehrend, writing today in the Tribune explains, 

Charter expansion means that Chicago’s meager pot of education funding gets spread among even more schools, and each school gets less.

A major problem with the charter model of school governance is the lack of voice for the adults who know students best — parents and teachers. A union gives teachers a stronger voice, and with that voice, our members are demanding a meaningful voice for parents in the form of Local School Councils for charter schools. The charter industry likes to tout charter “choice,” but this is merely product choice, and more choices don’t necessarily lead to better quality.

Real choice for parents means having a say in such things as how funds are spent, budgets are managed and whether a principal is renewed or not. I am an elected representative of teachers in charter schools, and my salary — on the same scale as the colleagues in my school — is paid for by dues from educators who serve their children. Teachers and students speak for schools, and the teachers’ democratic voice is their union.

Our union has spoken. We say no to austerity and privatization. We say yes to fully funded, democratic schools. We stand in solidarity with our sisters and brothers in the Chicago Teachers Union in support of our schools and in defense of public education.

When Milkie says that he supports SB1 out of his concern for funding equity, it rings hollow.

Ever expanding charter schools in Chicago and Illinois work against funding equity. What SB1 would provide is expanded charter funding without democratic controls and with resistance to collective bargaining.

There can be no school funding equity without public school adequate funding.

As Bev writes below, claiming equity with dollars that are taken from dedicated funding for hiring special education teachers is just wrong.

SB1. Bev Johns testifies today before the House Appropriations Committee.

Testimony of Bev Johns
June 22, 2017
House Appropriations – Elementary and Secondary Education

Chairman Davis, Spokesman Pritchard, Members of the Committee:

Special education in Illinois faces a crisis that will be made worse if you appropriate money according to the line items in Senate Bill 1.

Supporters of Senate Bill 1 say it will cost $3.5 billion or $350 million in new money each year for 10 years.

Now one of its main supporters (Ralph Martire of the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability: CTBA) states in a June 20 fact sheet that the Downstate [quote] “adequacy funding gap is $2.617 billion…40 percent of the state’s adequacy funding gap is downstate…” [end quote]

If 40 percent of the state’s adequacy funding gap is $2.617 Billion, the total for the State is over $6.5 Billion. (And $6.5 Billion TODAY is about $8 Billion in new money spread out over 10 years, and even more spread out over 20 years.)

The question is not where $350 million in NEW money EACH year will come from, but where $800 million in NEW money EACH year will come from.

SENATE BILL 1 IS THE GREATEST UNFUNDED FUNDING MANDATE EVER TO PASS THE ILLINOIS LEGISLATURE – a funding mandate that may NEVER be funded.

SB 1 would eliminate direct and dedicated funding for special education teachers and for Summer School for students needing special education.

Meg Carroll, the president of the Learning Disabilities Association (LDA) of Illinois, just stated:

“Illinois has the proud history of requiring special education, even before there was a federal law, and of tying state money directly to both special education teachers and special education summer school.  Senate Bill 1 ends that tradition.”

She continues, “The most critical school factor for the success of students with learning disabilities is the specially trained special education teacher. Senate Bill 1 allows previously dedicated special education funds to be spent on anything that a school district chooses to call special education.”

“The definition of special education in SB 1 refers to an old vague part of Illinois law [Section 14-1.08 of the Illinois school code] that does NOT even mention the federal special education law, IDEA, or spending money as required by the individualized educational plan, the IEP, for each student.”

Therefore, the Learning Disabilities Association of Illinois has recommended a VETO OF SENATE BILL 1.

Please appropriate money for next school year, Fiscal Year 2018, according to current law. Please fund direct and dedicated funding for special education teachers (Special Education Personnel Reimbursement), and please fund Special Education Summer School.

The ISBE recommendation for Special Education Personnel Reimbursement is $444,200,000, and for Special Education Summer School is $13,400,000.

Special Education Personnel Reimbursement is now directly tied to teachers – if a school district employs a special ed teacher, it receives $9,000 in State funds each year (in every school district except Chicago).

If it does NOT employ that special ed teacher, it receives nothing.

Money is now directly tied to specialized teaching.

Giving $9,000 to a local school district is NOT going to cause local schools to go out and hire too many special ed teachers as it is from less than 10 percent to at most 30 percent of a teacher’s salary and benefits.

Special Education Personnel Reimbursement is an efficient, clear, and accountable way to spend State money, and has some equity. $9,000 is a greater percentage of a salary in a poor school district than it is in a rich district.

HB 2808 will do to the rest of the state’s special education what already happens in Chicago.

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The issue of the dEvidence Base Model can get pretty weedy for many readers, but special education teachers, general education teachers and parents of students with special needs know what time it is.

Dear Fred,

An example of the crisis: I teach a Low Incidence class of children with autism, cognitive disabilities, and more on the Southside. I have 13 students, another with medical issues coming soon, have had my paraprofessionals cut to a single adult. And with experience, I am not a cheaper newbie. It is madness. North siders complain that they are cut to two or three aides! With 7 students. Inequity abounds. Will Guzzardi, please rethink your support.

-Sunset

Dear Sunset,

Inequity abounds, indeed!

HB 2808 will do to the rest of Illinois what is happening to you and other CPS special education teachers already.

CPS currently has the Block Grant for special ed. That means giving CPS no direct and dedicated funding for special ed teachers.

That is why CPS can cut its number of special ed teachers and lose zero state dollars.

Using a different method (1 position for 141 general education students) SB 1/HB 2808 would produce the same result for the rest of Illinois as you describe in your present situation in Chicago.

I know this gets weedy for many readers. But teachers and parents of special education students know what time it is.

While CPS does not use the Evidence Base Model, it does use Response to Intervention (RTI) and other methods of delay to avoid special education, such as mixing special education dollars and general education dollars. 

Illinois House Democrats threaten special education funding with HB 2808.

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The Illinois House plans to end its current session this week.

There is still no state budget and there is unlikely to be one.

The Senate has voted for an income tax increase, but the increase in new funding is unlikely to get House approval before Wednesday.

Meanwhile the House version of SB1, the education funding bill which in the House is called HB2808, still threatens special education.

As I have reported, HB2808 is sponsored by Rep. William Davis, Robert W. Pritchard , Linda Chapa LaVia, Al Riley, Emanuel Chris Welch, Sue Scherer, Camille Y. Lilly and Will Guzzardi.

The bill adopts what they call an Evidence Based Model.

One sponsor of the bill told me that it contemplates lots of new school funding.

I was told that each year there would be an additional $350 million more than the previous year, so that by 10 years out, we’d be funding K-12 education at a level $3.5 billion higher than we are today, a nearly 50% increase.

“Lots of new school funding” is one hell of an  expectation given we live in Illinois.

Maybe there will  be lots of new school funding,

Maybe not.

The ten-year cost of HB 2808 is said to be $3.5 billion today, but the realistic cost is likely to be $6 billion to $8 billion over 10 years.

No current school funding bill can guarantee $8 billion over ten years, let alone $3.5 billion.

I was told that HB 2808 requires that special ed money can’t be spent on anything the local district decides.  It has to be spent specifically on special ed.

The claim that HB 2808 requires funding dollars be specifically special education is wiggly at best. What it does is eliminate Special Education Personnel Reimbursement which is direct and dedicated funding for special education teachers and others that work full-time directly with students with disabilities.

A special education teacher is essential – at the core – of any quality special education program.

The first steps in getting rid of special education teachers working directly with special education students began with Response to Intervention (RTI).

I was still in the classroom when our schools started implementing Response to Intervention (RTI) as a way of cutting special education costs.

RTI is not a substitute for direct and dedicated funding for special education teachers.

This is a bad bill and should be defeated.

SB1 is a bad school funding bill and that’s not crazy talk.

addiction-selfishness

If I write about pension theft in Illinois someone inevitably will tell me that all I ever talk about is pensions and I’m selfish and I don’t care about the needs of others.

Of course,  the current attack on pensions is not directed at folks like me who are already retired, but at current active state employees.

Damn, I can be such a jerk.

If I write about Senate Bill 1, a school funding bill that eliminates direct funding for students with special needs in Illinois, I get accused of talking crazy and besides, I don’t personally have kids in Chicago schools anymore and this is the only chance to get money for CPS and I am being selfish.

See how that works, I am such a jerk.

I am told that opposing SB1/HB2808 is crazy talk.

The thing is that SB1, now being considered in the Illinois House as HB 2808, is a bad bill that increases funding for some Illinois school districts at the expense of support for children with special needs and for special education students.

There I go again, being selfish.

Senate Bill 1 would provide funds for just one position for every 141 Pre-K children with disabilities.

It would  provide for just one position for every 141 K-12 general education students including a special ed teacher OR speech/language OR social worker OR OT OR PT, says special education advocate Bev Johns.

Johns is another one those selfish people who has spent a career guarding the needs of children with special needs.

With some people it is always “me, me, me.”

As now amended, the bill will cut 10 percent of funds from the state’s poorest districts.

Even if $3 billion in new dollars were were added today220 school districts would be funded at 79 percent or less of adequacy, based on an Advance Illinois analysis.

Johns says we will be lucky to get $350 million, not billions added.

It has been noted that even if the maximum of $3 billion were added, most of the downstate districts would still miss their ‘adequacy targets’ by a mile.

The bill will end direct and dedicated funding for special education teachers statewide and will permit districts to spend those dollars on anything they want, leaving our most vulnerable children and families unserved.

That’s crazy talk.

Action alert. Special education funding.

Today at 3 P.M. an Illinois House Committee will talk about (but NOT vote) on Amendment 1 to House Bill 2808 (changing all of school funding in Illinois). 

Amendment 1 to HB 2808 would ELIMINATE direct and dedicated funding for special education teachers (and others providing direct help for students with IEPs), and allow local schools to spend that money on anything they call special education.

Amendment 1 would change HB 2808 by taking away 10 percent of the NEW money that would go to the poorest schools (Tier I)and give that extra 10 percent instead to Tier II schools (not as poor).

Schools with more wealth (Tier III and Tier IV) would still receive almost no NEW money (just 1 percent for both combined).

We were told that THE purpose of HB 2808 was to help the poorest schools.

Your can create a Witness Slip AND call the Members of the Committee.

1. To create a Witness Slip opposed to House Bill 2808, Amendment 1, click on the following link – http://my.ilga.gov/WitnessSlip/Create?committeeHearingId=14980&legislationId=0

2. Under Section I: Identification, fill out all information. Under Firm/Business or Agency you can type None.

Under Title you can type None.

3. Under Section II: Representation, if you are creating a witness slip on behalf of a group, fill out with the name of your organization. If you are not submitting a witness slip on behalf of a group or organization, type Self or Myself or your name.

4. Under Section III: Position, under Subject Matter click on Comprehensive hearing… then click Opponent.

5. Under Section IV: Testimony, check the box stating Record of Appearance Only.

6. In the box, Type the text (that appears above it)

7. Check the box stating I Agree to the ILGA Terms of Agreement.

8. Click Create (Slip) to submit slip.

IN ADDITION YOU CAN CALL THE MEMBERS OF THE COMMITTEE.

Get their telephone numbers by clicking on their name below. Leave a message on WHY you are opposed to House Bill 2808, Amendment 1. (because it removes direct and dedicated funding for special education teachers, because it gives 10 percent less money to the poorest school districts, etc.)

Chairperson :

William Davis

D

Vice-Chairperson :

Elizabeth Hernandez

D

Republican Spokesperson :

Robert W. Pritchard

R

Member:

Carol Ammons

D

Member:

Thomas M. Bennett

R

Member:

Avery Bourne

R

Member:

John Cavaletto

R

Member:

Melissa Conyears-Ervin

D

Member:

La Shawn K. Ford

D

Member:

LaToya Greenwood

D

Member:

Jeanne M Ives

R

Member:

Sheri Jesiel

R

Member:

Theresa Mah

D

Member:

Emily McAsey

D

Member:

Michelle Mussman

D

Member:

Steven Reick

R

Member:

Dave Severin

R

Member:

Justin Slaughter

D

Member:

Joe Sosnowski

R

Member:

Cynthia Soto

D

Member:

Emanuel Chris Welch