Parents, students and teachers protested cuts in special education funding before the Chicago Board of Education.
Angie Chavero, whose 8th grade daughter Daisy Chavero, has a learning disability, denounced the plan.
“I was saddened to hear the news about the proposed cuts to special ed,” Chavero said.
“When I went to school, I didn’t have the privilege of getting special services because of my learning disability,” she said.
“I think we’re going back to that time, when kids didn’t get services. It’s really sad because the special ed teachers do care. They help the kids believe in themselves.”
Chavero also said her daughter has more self-confidence and is able to do her homework by herself because of the support she receives in special ed.
With only one in seven CPS special education students reading at grade level and only one in five is at grade level in math, Janice Jackson, CPS chief education officer, said CPS needs to improve its record in educating “diverse learners.”
“Our [special education] students can improve their academic outcome and be better prepared for college and careers,” Jackson said.
Currently 54 percent of special education students graduate high school while only 5 percent ever leave special education programs.
CPS defended the proposed $12 million cut, announced in September, which comes on top of another $42 million slashed over the summer.
Markay Winston, chief officer for special education at CPS, said despite the cuts, the board has identified additional strategies to support special education teachers, including year-long development institutes for care professionals and training for principals in the summers.
“CPS remains committed to providing all the services to all 71,000 students that need our help,” Winston said.
Winston called on parents to inform the district if students’ needs aren’t being met.
“Times are tough but we are steadfast in our resolve to fulfill our commitment to our children.”
“Every child with an [individual education plan] will receive all services,” Winston said. “We have a responsibility and this is the law and we intend to comply.”
CPS CEO Forrest Claypool also urged parents to contact the school district if their child is not receiving services as outlined in an individual education plan.
“Each of those plans is sacrosanct, and each of those plans has specific resources that we will meet,” he said.
Adding to the controversy, Sarah Chambers, a teacher at Saucedo Academy on the South Side, said one of her students had been threatened by the principal when the school discovered she was going to a CPS board meeting to speak about special education.
“The principal told my student with a disability, ‘You will be expelled if you go to the board of education and speak!’” Chambers said.
“Imagine this, telling a student with a disability she cannot advocate for special education, for rights, for her services.”
Chambers also voiced her displeasure at the cuts being made to the special education program.
“It concerns me that you all are getting ready to pay out $200 million to the banks and at the same time you are cutting special education programming from our schools; you are literally choosing bankers over your students,” Chambers said.
“You are literally choosing bankers over your students. Shame on you!”
Information regarding the CPS budget plans can be found on the CPS website http://cps.edu/