The letter recommends that CPS Leadership present the top five candidates for the ODLSS Chief Officer position to the public. Members of the public need the opportunity to provide written feedback on each candidate. The feedback would be used by the CPS Board of Education in the decision process.
The group also calls on the CPS Executive Team to select candidates with prior experience as special education leaders, and to prioritize the long-term interests of students with disabilities when selecting candidates. The letter specifically raised concerns over whether current members of ODLSS would be considered, stating that “some of the decision making by that team was problematic and not in the long term interest of students with disabilities in CPS.”
The concerns of this group are compounded by fiscal problems of the Chicago Public Schools. Citing cuts to special education and severe staff reductions, the group wrote, “We all believe that the budget reductions for special education programs implemented at the start of the 2015-16 school year are wrong and will serve to limit the academic progress of students with disabilities.” The group called for a full restoration of the $32 Million in cuts to special education, suggesting the cuts would have horrible consequences on schools and students, and could trigger legal ramifications.
The letter was signed by Rodney Estvan of Access Living, and supported by these organizations and individuals: The Chicago Teachers Union; Service Employees International Union Local 73; Raise Your Hand for Illinois Public Education; Sharon Weitzman Soltman, Esq.; Advocate for children with disabilities; Amy Zimmerman, Director, Chicago Medical-Legal Partnership for Children; Karen Berman, Assistant Director, Illinois Policy, Ounce of Prevention Fund; Beverley Holden Johns, Professional Fellow in Special Education, MacMurray College; Matt Cohen, J.D Matt Cohen and Associates; Penny Richards, President Elect, Learning Disabilities Assoc. of Illinois; Heather Dalmage, PhD, Professor of Sociology, Director, Mansfield Institute for Social Justice and Transformation Roosevelt University.