From left, Barb Cohen of Legal Council for Health Justice; Natasha Carlsen, a special ed teacher; and Chris Yun of Access Living are among those calling on CPS to provide better special ed support. | Pat Nabong for the Sun-Times

EDITORIAL: It’s deja vu all over again with special ed teacher shortage

SHARE EDITORIAL: It’s deja vu all over again with special ed teacher shortage
SHARE EDITORIAL: It’s deja vu all over again with special ed teacher shortage

Plenty of schools are no doubt in the same boat as Camras Elementary.

The school in the Belmont Cragin neighborhood can’t find special education teachers and is forced to rely instead on substitutes who don’t have the proper certification to teach special ed classes.


That’s no way to educate any child, of course. But it’s especially troubling when a child has autism, a learning disability or some other special need.

So it’s no wonder that disability advocates, parents and teachers are frustrated and upset, accusing the Chicago Public Schools of failing to provide these children with services to which they’re legally entitled. An independent monitor appointed by the state to oversee special ed services isn’t doing enough either, they claim.

It’s deja vu all over again, unfortunately.

Frustration keeps cropping up because CPS has a history of special education failures. The district spent more than a decade under federal oversight for violating federal law and segregating disabled children in separate classrooms.

That oversight finally ended in 2013, but progress took a step backward under former CEO Forrest Claypool. He vowed that his so-called “reforms” of special ed would make things better for kids.

But things got worse — and CPS is stuck cleaning up Claypool’s mess.

The independent monitor reported in September that CPS has more than 700 unfilled jobs for special ed teachers, classroom aides and clinicians.

CPS says it’s trying mightily to fill the gap. How? Bywaiving the city residency requirement to hire teachers in special education and other “hard-to-staff” areas; by launching a teacher residency program with a New York-based graduate program; and by starting an early hire program that offers jobs to education students who commit to teaching in “high-needs” areas.

Chicago isn’t the only school district coping with a shortage, and not just in special ed. According to a Illinois State Board of Ed report, districts across Illinois, particularly in rural areas, can’t find enough qualified teachers in areas from special ed to math and science to English as a Second Language.

Advocates want Gov.-elect J.B. Pritzker to make sure the state’s enforcement bears fruit in CPS.

Here’s another agenda item: Find the best and brightest to teach in all of our schools.

Send letters to letters@suntimes.com

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