EDITORIAL: An independent monitor should oversee CPS special education

SHARE EDITORIAL: An independent monitor should oversee CPS special education

Protesters hold a press conference in April at the Thompson Center, calling on the Illinois State Board of Education to appoint an “independent monitor” to oversee changes with special education at Chicago Public Schools. | Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

History shows the Chicago Public Schools just can’t get it right when it comes to educating children with special needs.

So we support the appointment of an independent monitor to oversee special education, as state education officials are now recommending.


The proposal, up for a vote at Wednesday’s Illinois State Board of Education meeting, comes after an investigation that found that CPS committed numerous violations of federal law that “delayed or denied” special ed services to thousands of children.

Without a monitor, we just don’t trust CPS to right its own ship and make sure the most vulnerable children get the type of education the law requires. 

Why our skepticism? Frankly, we’ve seen this movie before.

Beginning in the 1990s, the district spent more than a decade under federal oversight for illegally segregating disabled children in separate classrooms. That oversight didn’t end until 2013.

You’d think one round of oversight would be enough to convince CPS that following federal law — crossing every ‘t’ and dotting every ‘i’ — isn’t an option. You’d think CPS would have thought twice, even three or four times, before trying to get away with so-called “reforms” to special ed that actually hurt kids instead of helping them, as ousted CEO Forrest Claypool promised when he and a team of connected consultants cooked them up.

That review of recent history by reporters for WBEZ radio, as well as lobbying by special ed advocates, sparked the state’s investigation.

You’d also think the district would make sure that problems are ironed out, but some parents are still reporting problems. That’s a third strike.

CEO Janice Jackson has made some improvements, which is good. Her administration should continue to do so, and make sure that monitoring can end after the proposed three years — instead of dragging on, as federal monitoring did.

CPS had the chance to do right starting back in 1992, when parents sued the district and the feds stepped in. It botched that chance.

Time to let an outsider do the job.

Send letters to: letters@suntimes.com.

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