Public Statement by Tenisha Jackson:
Special Education Classroom Assistant and member of SEIU Local 73
My name is Tenisha Jackson. I am a special education classroom assistant in the Chicago Public Schools and a proud member of SEIU Local 73.
As a Special Education Classroom Assistant, I directly care for and assist in the education of several special needs children at my school, Ray Graham Training Center High School. I have worked at CPS for 14.5 years.
The tasks I perform are assisting special needs children during breakfast class time and throughout the entire day.
In April, 2015 Bruce Rauner said he wanted Chicago Public Schools to go bankrupt.
This summer, CPS borrowed $200 million dollars and paid millions of dollars in fees to wall-street banks like Bank of America, so it could pay its bills.
In August, CPS laid off more than 300 Special Education Classroom Assistants, which is almost 10% SECAs.
At my school, Ray Graham, 5 staff were laid off during the extended school year this summer.
The remaining staff had to be shuffled around to assist with bigger groups of students with more severe developmental disabilities.
This impacted the students because autistic children were placed in noisier environments which impacted their development and learning.
This has also impacted students because most of the time, students with autism don’t usually adapt well to change. That’s where I step in and try to adhere to the needs of all the children I service. The layoffs have had a negative impact to students with autism at my school.
Staff are unfamiliar with students’ disability causing Assistants to be ill prepared. The cuts disrupted a normal classroom atmosphere due to students not being able to adapt to change. Lastly, special needs children develop a relationship with their SECAs, for instance, my co-worker was cut—the student he had worked with is not right to this very day.
That is why we stand with CPS parent, advocates, for students with disabilities, and City of Chicago Aldermen calling for a public hearing to demand answers about how these illegal cuts to services for students with disabilities will hurt Chicago children.
Illinois is a wealthy state. Chicago is a prosperous city.
The Chicago Public Schools are not broke, but Bruce Rauner’s policies are.