Learning Disabilities Association (LDA) of Illinois opposes SB16.

For immediate release
For more information:
Bev Johns-217-473-1790


Senate Bill 16 would completely change how Illinois funds local schools. The bill has passed the Illinois State Senate, and is now being considered in closed meetings by the top Democratic members of the Illinois House of Representatives.

The Board of the Learning Disabilities Association (LDA) of Illinois on Saturday, September 13th, voted unanimously to OPPOSE Senate Bill 16 as now written.
Bev Johns, president of LDA of Illinois, states, “Senate Bill 16 would directly harm students with disabilities and their parents. Illinois has a proud history in special education. Senate Bill 16 would tarnish all we have done in the past.”

The members of LDA are largely parents of students with learning disabilities (LD), dyslexia and related disabilities. Membership also includes college professors, and special ed teachers.

LDA of Illinois opposes Senate Bill 16 because it would completely eliminate special ed Personnel Reimbursement which provides local school districts $9,000 for each special ed teacher, each school psychologist, each school social worker, etc. that works directly with students with Individualized Education Plans (IEPs).

SB 16 would replace special ed Personnel Reimbursement, and certain other special education funding, with a block grant limited to 13.8 percent of a local school districts’ students.

If a school district identifies more than 13.8 percent of its students as needing special education because of high poverty and/or because of a school district’s sincere attempt to identify every child with a disability, the school district would receive zero State dollars for each student in special education that exceeds 13.8 percent of its student population.

LDA of Illinois opposes this 13.8 percent limit because it is arbitrary and will actively discourage local school districts from identifying students for special education.

Some claim that the 13.8 percent limit will prevent local school districts from over-identifying students. It has been the experience of LDA of Illinois all over the State that local school districts do not identify more students so they can receive $9,000 (1/3 to 1/10 of a special ed teacher’s salary) as identifying students gives parents and students all the legal rights in Illinois law and in the federal law, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

Arne’s proof. Marcy’s proof.


This morning NPR reports, “Under the new guidelines, Duncan says he’ll require proof that these (Special Needs) kids aren’t just being served but are actually making academic progress.”

During the 2011-2012 school year – my final year of teaching – I was on evaluation. In our district tenured teachers were formally evaluated by the principal every two years.

The process would usually involve several meetings and a classroom observation.

For many years my school had a large number of Special Needs students – particularly students with autism – and we struggled to successfully apply best practices, including inclusive classroom settings for every student.

It was always my belief that even those students who were identified on the far end of the autism spectrum should be included with typical students in the art room. With the help and support of great paraprofessionals, that is what we did.

The idea of being evaluated by the principal in the final year of my teaching seemed silly. It was a fluke of the calendar.

But as union president I had witnessed awful principals give poor evaluations to retiring veteran teachers just so they could claim they were not giving every teacher a high rating. And I had also seen the devastated look on many of these teachers’ faces who took this stuff seriously, believing that after a life-time of teaching, they were now considered less than adequate.

I, on the other hand, was more skeptical of the process. So when Marcy, my principal, asked me to fill out a sheet on what my professional goals for the year were, I told her that I had none. “I’m a good teacher. I will be a good teacher this year. I am retiring at the end of this year.” 

She asked me to tell her what my goal for the lesson was that she was going to observe.

I told her, “Why don’t we meet afterwards, and you see if you can tell me what my goal was?”

At the appointed time, Marcy walked into my room with pen and a legal-sized note pad and sat on a stool in the corner.

It was a class of fifth graders and we were exploring perspective. I was demonstrating the tricks of using one-point perspective to create the illusion of depth on a two-dimensional surface.

This class – like most of my classes – had a student with autism. In this case Jimmy was on the extreme end of the autism spectrum. He was not verbal and would often appear inattentive, shaking his hands or staring out the window. But we – the paraprofessional and I – knew that Jimmy was hearing me, understood at some level and with problematic motor skills, Jimmy would attempt to do the work. Or some work.

Marcy missed all that.

Worse, Marcy was unaware that she was missing it.

In her post-observation write-up she said that Jimmy was not engaged.

I was appalled. I refused to sign the write-up and wrote a response which I insisted be placed in my personnel file.

“You cannot tell whether Jimmy is engaged or not engaged simply by a one-time observation,” I wrote. “You clearly have very little knowledge of autism, although you were a special education administrator for many years.”

I also pointed out that whether a child has autism or is a typical student, engagement is not binary. A student is not in or out. There are degrees of engagement with a project. This is no less true for Special Needs students.

The Obama administration said Tuesday that the vast majority of the 6.5 million students with disabilities in U.S. schools today are not receiving a quality education, and that it will hold states accountable for demonstrating that those students are making progress.

A major shift in Special Needs accountability.

It must be demonstrated that the students are making progress.

One can only shudder at what Arne has in mind.

All hell breaks loose when Illinois charters are told to stop discriminating.

Illinois Budget

Republican Jim Oberweiss fought hard for the right of charters to discriminate. That’s what he means by providing “choice” for parents.

The language in the bill was simple enough.

” … all federal and State laws and rules applicable to public schools that pertain to special education and the instruction of English language learners, referred to in this Code as “children of limited English-speaking ability ….”

Those were the words that will be added to the school code in HB 4527.

In even plainer English, Illinois would require charter schools to stop discriminating against Special Needs students and against those who speak another language than English.

Charter schools have a record of doing both of those things.

Public schools are required by law to admit all students.

And let me add a personal note, that I taught for many years in a public school with large numbers of children with Special Needs. We worked for full inclusion and I strongly believe that this was a benefit to every teacher and child in the school.

HB4527 passed by a wide margin.

Bu not before the bias of the charter vultures was exposed for all to see.

Republican Sen. David Luechtefeld (R-Okawville) spoke up.  “One reason charter schools were set up in the first place was to give them that flexibility because a lot of things were not happening that needed to happen in the public school system.”

Flexibility to turn away students with Special Needs and non-English speakers.

Luechtefeld added, that if we take away the right of charters to turn away Special Needs students than charters would be “no different than the public school system and therefore … obsolete.”

Republican Sen. Jim Oberweis (R-North Aurora) used another favorite word of the charter vultures. He opposed HB 4527 because it would give parents “less choice” in their children’s education.

The choice to discriminate against children who speak another language at home. Children with autism. Children with Down Syndrome. Children in wheel chairs.

It would take away the right to make hateful choices.

In the end, HB 4527 passed the Senate 34-15.

It had already passed the Illinois House 77-32

This was one more on a list of bills diminishing the power of charter schools in Illinois.

HB 3754, which would abolish the Charter Schools Commission awaits a vote by the House to concur with the Senate vote.

HB 3937 extends a moratorium on “virtual” charter schools outside the City of Chicago passed the Senate and needs a concurrence vote in the House.

Thanks to Jim Broadway’s report for providing much of the information included here.

Bev Johns. Illinois’ SB 16 threatens Special Ed funding. And a deal with the devil.

– Beverley Holden Johns is a special education advocate and activist.

In a desperate attempt to get votes for Senate Bill 16, the Illinois Senate Education Committee voted to allow school districts to STOP teaching the following for 3 years: drivers’ education; daily physical education;  avoiding abduction; internet safety; the Holocaust and genocides; black history; women’s history;  United States’ history; disability history; the disability rights movement; charter school education; consumer education; natural resources; steroid use and prevention; requirements applicable to sex education courses; patriotism and representative government; and violence prevention and conflict resolution.

SB 16 seems to say that education funding is only about which school districts receive money.

SB 16 ignores the fact that State funds are now tied to actually doing something, to encouraging or requiring that those funds be spent for certain students or for certain activities.

As amended, except for high cost students, Illinois State Senate Bill 16 would allow special ed funds to be spent for almost anything a local school district wants to spend them on, move the funding from students with IEPs to a guess “representative of the statewide average population of students with disabilities,” and almost eliminate special ed funding for some school districts.

As this would violate Federal law, Amendment 5 to Senate Bill 16 has now been proposed to say that Federal IDEA (but NOT State) funds must be spent on special ed.

Illinois now provides State education funds tied to services to students. SB 16 would pretend that every school district serves exactly the same percentage of special ed students.

SB 16 would disconnect State funding from actual services to students.

Amendment 4 to Senate Bill 16 would remove some State mandates unless those mandates are fully funded by the State of Illinois.

Amendment 3 to Senate Bill 16 would eliminate the $9,000 Illinois pays for each special ed teacher, and instead fund Illinois special ed with one flat percentage of students no matter how few or how many students a local school district identifies as needing special education.

This would punish some school districts appropriately serving students, while rewarding other school districts NOT identifying students as needing special education.

The current special ed Personnel Reimbursement formula directly provides $9,000 for each special education teacher,and all other specialized personnel “providing services in accordance with an individualized education program (IEP).”

This direct funding is essential to the provision of specialized and individualized instruction.

Amendment 3 would spend State money NOT on students with IEPs, but instead on a”weighting percentage” established by the State Board of Education “representative” of a guess as to the number of students with disabilities in Illinois.

It can NOT say based on the number of students with disabilities because no one knows what that is. So it says “representative”of that number.

To eliminate special ed Personnel Reimbursement is to invite all of the problems that have resulted from the Chicago Block Grant.


Beverly Johns. Rewarding schools for not identifying students with special needs.

– Beverly Holden Johns is an Illinois special education advocate and activist.

Amendment 1 to Senate Bill 16 would eliminate the $9,000 Illinois pays for each special ed teacher, and instead fund Illinois special ed with a flat block grant no matter how few or how many students a local school district identifies as needing special education.

This would punish some school districts appropriately serving students, while rewarding other school districts NOT identifying students as needing special education.

The current special ed Personnel Reimbursement formula directly provides $9,000 for each special education teacher, and all other specialized personnel “providing services in accordance with an individualized education program (IEP).”

This direct funding is essential to the provision of specialized and individualized instruction.

To eliminate special ed Personnel Reimbursement is to invite all of the problems that have resulted from the Chicago Block Grant.

Please urge your State Senator in Springfield to OPPOSE Amendment 1 to Senate Bill 16.

Bev Johns. ISBE class size rules are dead. For now. But Koch is still spreading lies.

Bev Johns frequently contributes information on special education issues. She is an education activist and advocate.

ISBE now says the special ed class size rule is dead, but is stillspreading the absolutely false idea that the current rules somehow restrict “access to the most rigorous classes.”

ISBE told the Chicago Sun-Times, “The rule process is such that these proposed rules will expire and at this point in time, we don’t expect to move forward with an entire set of new rules but will try to work on giving districts flexibility so that all students can have access to the most rigorous classes.”

State Supt. Chris Koch just told local school superintendents:
“The Board will not be taking action on rules governing special education class size and composition (Part 226). I still believe our current rules are overreaching and do not always allow for optimal placements, however, at this time we will focus on providing
districts with the flexibility available through existing processes and procedures to ensure all students have access to challenging curriculum so they’re prepared for college and careers.”

Due to the vast opposition of parents and teachers, the ISBE Board required its staff to kill the proposed elimination of State special class size limits.

When will the State Superintendent admit he is wrong? Why have public comment if the overwhelming comment of parents and teachers on an important public issue affecting every student and every teacher is ignored by the State Superintendent of Education?

Breaking: ISBE pulls class size limits off their agenda again. Good work.

The Chicago Teachers Union’s Kristine Mayle is reporting that the proposal to remove special education class size limits has once again been pulled from the agenda of the Illinois State Board of Educatiion. They were planning to address the issue tomorrow.

But a huge mobilization of emails and phone calls by parents, teachers and special education advocates across the state appears to have had impact.

And this just in from Bev Johns:

ISBE postpones special ed class size discussion.

Will ISBE hold a special meeting to discuss/act
on it later this month or early in February
or is the proposal dead as the rule must be
FINAL (go through JCAR without a JCAR prohibition)
and be published in the Illinois Register by March 8.

Just posted on the ISBE website:

NOTE: Part 226 (Special Education) (class size/composition) WILL NOT be discussed at the January Board Meeting.

THANK YOU for all the contacts you made.

YOU made the difference.

Bev Johns, Chair
Governmental Relations
Illinois Council for Exceptional Children (ICEC)

Bev Johns. We need you at the ISBE board meeting on January 22nd.

– Bev Johns, Special Education advocate and activist.

We need you at the ISBE Board meeting on January 22.

Whether the ISBE Board eliminates special ed class size limits AND the 70/30 rule DEPENDS ON YOU. Will you offer testimony this Wednesday?

If you cannot go, try to get other people to go: retired teachers, parents, relatives, etc. that could give THEIR OWN testimony OR read YOUR testimony (make a short version that can be read in 2 minutes, as well as a longer one if you want to do that as the regular time limit is 5 minutes).

If many, many people want to offer Public Comment (ISBE calls it Public Participation) ISBE Chairman Gery Chico may cut the time to 2 or 3 minutes for each person.

Make sure each person knows they have to sign in for Public Participation on the sheet just inside the door of the 4th Floor Board Room, ISBE office, 100 N. First Street, Springfield, Illinois.

The meeting starts at 10 A.M. on Wednesday, January 22, and Public Participation should be near the beginning of the meeting.

If someone arrives late, have them go to up to staff seated behind Chairman Chico and ask staff to be added to the Public Participation list.

You can testify on how allowing EACH LOCAL SCHOOL DISTRICT to have a special ed Staffing Plan would affect you, your child, your classroom, the services you provide to students, or your local schools.

How’s this for cynical? Valerie Strauss of the Washington Post writes about Illinois’ attempts to raise Special Education class size limits.

Valerie Strauss’ blog, The Answer Sheet in the Washington Post.

How’s this for cynical? The Illinois State Board of Education wants to remove class size protections for students with disabilities. If the proposal (officially known as changes to state administrative rule Part 226) is approved, there would be no statewide limits on the size of special education classes, or the percentage of students with disabilities who can be placed in a general education class. Furthermore, there would be no requirement that a paraprofessional be assigned to a special education class of any particular size.

Why would the state want to do this? Think of the money cramming more kids into a classroom with a single teacher could save. Education officials would also say this is more about achieving broader access for special ed students to regular classes, but they could, if they wanted, achieve that without gutting class size rules. And they would say that this is about giving local school systems more control to set up their own ratios, but that’s really precious, given other reforms the state has mandated in recent years, including insisting that teachers be evaluated by student standardized test scores and changes in teacher tenure rules.

Currently, Illinois schools must adhere to the 70-30 rule, which requires that no regular class can have more than 30 percent of special education students. Under the proposal, which will be discussed Jan. 22 at the Illinois Board of Education meeting, districts could do whatever they wanted in this regard.

Read the entire post here.

IEA and IFT joint statement on Special Needs class size limits.


Joint letter from Cinda Klickna, President, Illinois Education Association, and Dan Montgomery, President, Illinois Federation of Teachers.

The IFT, IEA and our members oppose the State Board’s proposed 226.730 Staffing Plan.

We believe in providing students with disabilities access to the most effective and appropriate education within the least restrictive environment.

We further believe all students should be provided a classroom environment which allows for effective teaching and learning.

We do not believe these revisions to Part 226.730 will accomplish these goals, but rather will allow district-level decisions to place teachers in a position where they cannot provide all necessary services to their students.

Even though Illinois is in a financial crisis, our focus as a state should be to provide basic statewide protections and the best possible services to all students, both general education students and students with disabilities.

Our focus should be to make educationally sound decisions. The State Board’s proposed Staffing Plan is not educationally sound and represents cuts at the expense of students’ education.

It is all too likely that too many of Illinois’ 860-plus school districts – many in desperate financial straits due to prorated General State Aid and potentially declining tax revenues – will see this change as a route to further cost savings at the expense of teaching, learning and student outcomes.

This is a change Illinois cannot afford to make and a message the State Board cannot afford to send.

The proposed rule provides that each local staffing plan, which ISBE hopes will take effect in the upcoming 2014-2015 school year, removes any consistent, statewide minimum baseline for class size as it relates to students with disabilities.

The state has signaled clearly in the last few years that there is a need for strong, consistent statewide expectations in other things like Common Core and PERA so that all school districts have to meet a rigorous minimum which our members and districts are strenuously working to properly implement.

Replacing the current state expectations for class size with over 860 vastly differing staffing plans across the state sends a contradictory message to school districts and our members, while placing a substantial added burden on teaching and learning that would have a significant negative impact our students.

The IFT and IEA stand strong in our commitment to promote statewide protections and much-needed financial resources for school districts to ensure our members and the students we serve are provided a learning environment for success.

We support the ISBE waiver deviation request process that is already in place. This process allows school districts to request a deviation from the 70/30 rule.

As a part of that process, special education and general education teachers are required to complete an assessment. This ensures that our teachers have direct input into critical educational decisions and allows for flexibility for districts. ISBE can hold districts accountable, teachers are involved, and the needs of all students are met.

Therefore, we recommend the State Board to maintain the statewide class size protections of Part 226.730, rather than replace them with the weak proposal for each district to have a Staffing Plan.


You can oppose the elimination of State special ed class size limits by sending an e-mail to  chairman@isbe.net  urging the Members of the Board of ISBE at their meeting on Jan. 22/23 in Springfield to oppose the proposed new 226.730, local school 
district Staffing Plan for special ed.             

– Bev Johns