The FY 17 CPS Budget was published in a new format from previous years, making transparency a serious issue. The Chicago Public Schools breaks down the Special Education Budget into up to 50 specific instructional program codes. Under the FY 17 format, which merges categorical district wide special education funding into Core Instructional Funding, many program codes read zero. In the report, Estvan notes, “We spent a good part of this report explaining where these funds went and how they return to schools, (page 3).” Nevertheless, because of the new CPS formatting, it is impossible to determine “how much CPS is spending on many different groupings of students with disabilities due to this merger of funds, (page 4).”
Despite the difficulties posed from lack of transparency, the Budget Review concludes that “CPS remains in a deep fiscal crisis, (Page 3).” According to the Budget Review, this crisis “has an impact on special education and what can be done for students with disabilities within CPS . . ., (Page 3).”
The Access Living Budget Review credits CPS for publishing a White Paper on Special Education outcomes within the Chicago Public School. The report, “Closing the Achievement Gap and Improving Outcomes for Students with Disabilities,” was issued in July 2016. Though Access Living was pleased CPS produced the report, the Budget Review discusses many problems with the White Paper. Specifically, the White Paper fails to recognize the prevalence of Emotional Behavior Disability among African American students. “In the past CPS has found that African American students are over two and one half times more likely to be identified as having an emotional disability than all other students . . . [yet] the white paper makes no mention at all relating to the identification of African American students and Emotional Behavioral Disability, (p. 25).” This omission is critical within the context of work to address the School to Prison Pipeline. The rate of expulsion and suspension is much higher for African Americans with disabilities compared to other students. Access Living recommends that CPS publish a Special Education Analysis on an annual basis.
The Budget Review includes a list of recommendations for CPS, such as the reestablishment of an office that addresses specific Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) issues. Across the school district, there are hundreds of employees, students and family members of students who need ADA accommodations. Yet, there is no clear CPS staff member for stake holders to contact on this issue. In 2015, CPS laid off the two employees who staffed the ADA Office. Currently, there is no listing of an ADA Office in the CPS Directory. Other recommendations in the Budget Review include issues related to the fiscal issues at CPS, Universal Design in learning, the crisis of violence faced by CPS Students, and the problems created when combining Instructional Funding and Special Education Funding.
The full Budget Review report is available for download on the Access Living website. Download at this link: 2016-Chicago Public Schools Budget Review - FY 2017
Established in 1980, Access Living is a non-profit, Chicago-based disability rights and service organization that provides individualized, peer-based services for people with disabilities. With a strong influence in public policy and social reform, Access Living is committed to challenging stereotypes, protecting civil rights and breaking institutional and community barriers. For more information, contact Gary Arnold at 312-640-2199(voice), email@example.com, 312-640-2102(TTY).