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Step forward in Chicago fight for special education

By staff |
July 25, 2017
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Teacher Sarah Chambers, fired for leading the fight against the attacks.on Speci
Teacher Sarah Chambers, fired for leading the fight against the attacks.on Special Education students in Chicago Public Schools. (Fight Back! News / Staff)

Chicago, IL - Teachers and parents fighting Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s attacks on public education scored a concession from the city. In April, Chicago Public Schools (CPS) fired Sarah Chambers, the teacher who chairs the Special Education Task Force for the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU). The fightback to this latest attack got the administration to end a budgeting practice implemented last year known as “comingling.”

CPS commingled the special education and general education school budgeting to hide substantial cuts in special ed. In addition to at least $85 million in cuts, CPS Central Office held back 4% of each school’s special ed funds for an appeals process - one that was proven to be racist, as predominantly white schools were granted the appeal while African American and Latino dominant schools were not.

According to the Principals’ Association, 95% of principals surveyed preferred when the budgets were un-commingled and 71% said that they couldn’t meet the needs of their students in this fashion. CPS has a history of delaying and denying students with special needs their federal and state civil rights.

The CTU Task Force, made up of organizations, teachers and community activists, fought for the duration of the 2016-2017 school year to un-commingle these funds. Throughout the course of the academic year, the Task Force held six Teacher and Parent Know Your Rights Trainings; held protests at city hall, the Board of Education, and Network Level Offices for CPS; and attended and spoke at almost every school board meeting. Through this united effort, CPS announced July 20 that the Special Education and General Education funds were no longer going to be commingled.

Co-chair of the Special Education Task Force, teacher Natasha Carlson stated: “While this a victory for our students with special needs as we now have more transparency on CPS’ investment in our most vulnerable population, we still must continue to fight to get our special education students the education they deserve from CPS.”

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