Director of Communications
CHICAGO – Today Access Living published its annual review of the Chicago Public Schools’ budget for the 2018-19 year, deeming the budget ineffectual in addressing the documented violations of federal law governing the education of special education students. Access Living once again calls for a strategic reconsideration of how CPS will resolve issues affecting students with disabilities, with the view that resolving many of these issues can help stabilize the overall education climate in CPS.
With a total operating budget of $5.98 billion, a $285 million increase over last year, the budget is a welcome shift from past years’ austerity budgets. The FY19 budget appear to recoup previous years’ cuts to special ed, but the fact remains that CPS is understaffed and underserved when it comes to special education needs and the additional 268 staffing proposed doesn’t come with a staffing plan taking into account the chronic shortage of special education teachers and paraprofessionals in Illinois or begin to address the systemic violations of special education law. CPS’s special education unit, Office of Diverse Learner Supports and Services (ODLSS), is budgeted for $824.5 million, an increase of $32 million from FY18.
The FY2019 budget makes no mention of the unprecedented public inquiry or ISBE’s recommendations. The district’s violations of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) were recently very publicly highlighted by a historic investigation by the Illinois State Board of Education. In May, the Illinois State Board of Education announced support for an independent monitor to supervise an overhaul of CPS’ special education service following an investigation that concluded CPS violated a broad swath of federal laws and regulations regarding special education services for students with disabilities.
“There seems to be a disconnect between the budget and what needs to occur to remedy the past neglect of students rights under IDEA,” said Chris Yun, Access Living Education Policy Analyst. “We have seen last minute budget increases to hire more teachers in the past that have never come to fruition. CPS needs to treat the special education violations like the crisis it is and seriously budget and plan for the execution of the recommendations advocates put forward. “
Earlier this month CPS CEO Janice Jackson announced the district is adding more than 250 new full-time social workers and special education positions to better provide students with “critical resources” needed at schools across the city. It isn’t yet clear where the $26 million “district investment” will come from. CPS has said the new funding will be used to hire 94 special education case managers and 160 social workers who will work inside district schools. Adding more positions to meet students’ needs is welcomed, however, staffing expansion, especially on this scale, is not an easy task and simply budgeting funds does not guarantee the goal of filling those positions with qualified staff.
Access Living’s offers seven recommendations to the Chicago Public Schools Board of Education as they consider the budget proposal:
“With a $1 billion capital budget, it is unconscionable that CPS has not included dedicating funding to make accessible some of the 38 percent of schools that remain totally inaccessible to students, teachers and family members who have disabilities,“ said Marca Bristo, President of Access Living.