Chicago Pledges to Maintain Special Education Services Despite Cuts


Chicago Public Schools CEO Forrest Claypool has announced that the district will follow the individual learning plans of special needs students despite ongoing efforts to cut costs in the department.

According to recently released enrollment data for the district, around 52 special education aides and 16 teachers could be let go from the district further into the school year. Additional cuts to the special education budget had previously been announced earlier in the summer.

The Service Employees International Union Local 73, representing special education classroom assistants in the district, said over 300 assistants had already been laid off.

"They are going to need to correct the matter," said Christine Boardman, the union's president. "Because we're hooking up with parents. And if we have to take this issue to court, where we would have (legal) standing along with the parents in order to protect the children, we are going to do that."

Earlier in the summer, the district announced plans to cut $42 million from the special education department as part of a larger effort to cut the district's total budget by $200 million. However, a district spokesman said not as many cuts would be made in order to comply with the individual education plans currently in place. An unspecified number of jobs must be kept in order these services to be met.

Over the next few weeks, special education staff in the district will be reviewed by CPS, and parents and educators will be asked to let officials know if any students' needs are not being met. The cutoff date for principals to appeal any cuts made to special education is November 2. The district added that no more jobs would be cut until the review is complete.

"And if there's any instance in which a parent at one of the schools if we go back for this review says ‘I'm not getting the resources in my plan,' we want to know that, we're going to address it and we're going to fix it," Claypool said. "Because each of those plans is sacrosanct, and each of those plans has specific resources that we will meet."

However, not everyone agrees with the move. Alderman Scott Waguespack of the city's 32nd Ward is one of the many residents who are making a push for the school board to restore funding to the special education program, arguing that making cuts violates the civil rights of the children involved, writes Juan Perez for The Chicago Tribune. "The lawsuits that will rain down on us are going to cost far more than the restoration of these cuts," said Waguespack.

This year is the first time the district will be making cuts to school budgets based on decreased enrollment according to its student-based budgeting policy. Overall enrollment has been down across the district, with around 2,900 fewer special education students.

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