Afternoon Edition: May 20, 2020

Today’s update is a 5-minute read that will brief you on the day’s biggest stories.

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Educators, students, and union laborers rally at Union Park during the Chicago Teachers Union strike last fall. | Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times

Good afternoon. Here’s the latest news you need to know in Chicago. It’s about a 5-minute read that will brief you on today’s biggest stories.

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Afternoon Edition

Chicago’s most important news of the day, delivered every weekday afternoon. Plus, a bonus issue on Saturdays that dives into the city’s storied history.

This afternoon will be partly sunny, with a high near 64 degrees. Tonight’s low will be around 51 degrees. Tomorrow, more sunny skies, and a high near 67.

Top story

Chicago Teachers Union sues Betsy DeVos, CPS over coronavirus special education requirements

The Chicago Teachers Union is suing federal and local education officials over special education regulations the union alleges have created an “impossible burden” for school workers and threaten to interfere with student learning during the coronavirus pandemic.

The union filed a nine-page federal lawsuit today against the U.S Department of Education, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and the Chicago Board of Education, claiming its members are being forced to “conduct a whole scale redrafting” of students’ special education plans in the final six weeks of the school year.

“Aside from being impossible to accomplish, and from threatening to interfere with the provision of the special education services needed by these children, the redrafting of roughly 70,000 plans is highly likely to increase the anxiety and emotional distress of parents or guardians and that will further complicate the revision of these plans,” the union wrote in its complaint.

The plans in question, called Individualized Education Programs and 504 Plans, are federally enforced legal documents unique to each special education student that lay out exactly what types of services the child needs throughout a school year. Yearly meetings are held for parents of every student, with case managers, teachers, clinicians and other staff to develop those plans according to each child’s needs.

We’re making our vital coronavirus coverage free for all readers. See the latest news here.

Given an opportunity through Congress’ Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act to waive a requirement that school districts nationwide revise student’s special education plans as needed, DeVos declined, according to the suit. Following that decision, Chicago Public Schools’ special education office then required teachers and case managers to meet with every student individually to come up with a new remote learning plan, the CTU said.

The union argues its members’ time would be better served during the pandemic adjusting to teaching students based on their existing plans, rather than taking hours to hold meetings with every parent to come up with thousands of new documents.

Chicago Public Schools spokeswoman Emily Bolton said the district’s remote learning guidance doesn’t require teachers or clinicians to rewrite those special education documents, and only calls for them to make “basic accommodations and plans to deliver services to help their students adjust to this unprecedented learning format.”

Department of Education Press Secretary Angela Morabito said the lawsuit is “nothing more than political posturing for a headline.” She continued: “It’s sad to see the union making excuses for why they can’t educate all students instead of figuring out a way to make it happen.”

Read the full story from Nader Issa here.

More news you need

  1. Another 2,388 people have tested positive for the coronavirus in Illinois, sending the state’s case tally over six figures to 100,418. Officials reported an additional 147 deaths attributed to COVID-19 today. 
  2. As lawmakers returned to Springfield today to square away a budget in the waning days of an end-of-month deadline — and amid a pandemic — some were met with protesters. Here’s what’s happening today at the state capital.
  3. Oprah Winfrey is giving grants to the cities she’s called home through her $12 million coronavirus relief fund. Live Healthy Chicago, which provides immediate support to seniors and high-risk residents affected by the coronavirus, will get $5 million.
  4. The Chicago City Council rushed to the rescue of businesses and individuals whose everyday lives and livelihoods have been crippled by the shutdown. Fran Spielman breaks down the parade of ordinances that were approved today.
  5. Meg Rooney, a beloved Chicago school counselor and case manager who “was a fighter for the most vulnerable” and spent her summers working at Sox Park, has died at 57. Kellogg Elementary School staffers plan to install a buddy bench in her memory.
  6. As she sheds her occasionally bearded husband, Kristin Cavallari also is saying goodbye to another of her projects: her reality show. The TV personality and entrepreneur has “decided not to continue with ‘Very Cavallari,’” she wrote.
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A bright one

Power outage at Willis Tower leaves building looking ‘disappointed,’ just like everyone else in 2020

Chicago’s skyline looked downright ominous last night.

One of the city’s iconic buildings, Willis Tower, was completely black — darkened by a power outage caused by a flood in the tower’s basement following the record-breaking rain the city experienced Sunday and Monday.


Here’s what Willis Tower looked like last night. | Left photo from @LWilz/Twitter, right photo from @DFabreezy/Twitter

Left photo from @LWilz/Twitter, right photo from @DFabreezy/Twitter

Chicagoans who noticed that their beloved “Sears Tower” had lost its twinkling lights were quick to comment on social media that they found the whole thing “creepy.” Others noticed that the lightless tower looked like it had a face, and thought it gave the impression of a disappointed robot, who’s just as done with 2020 as the rest of us.

But there was one take we can all agree with: The images provided some much-needed comedic relief amid the disastrous flooding Chicago saw early this week and the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Read the full story to see what Chicagoans said about it here.

From the press box

The remodeling Bulls made their latest move today by informing head trainer Jeff Tanaka that his contract will not be renewed. Tanaka joined the organization 12 years ago from the NFL’s San Francisco 49ers and became head trainer in 2014.

One area the Bulls won’t be able to address so quickly is the center position, where there’s not much depth behind Wendell Carter Jr. The oversized contract given to Cristiano Felicio continues to haunt the Bulls in building out their frontcourt. 

Your daily question ☕

Now that gardening season is upon us, what have you been planting? Send us photos of your pretty plots & pots!

Email us (please include your first name and where you live) and we might include your answer in the next Afternoon Edition.

Yesterday, we asked you to tell us about a book you’ve been reading during the pandemic. Here’s what some of you said…

“‘The Woman in the Window’ by A.J. Finn. It has everything: mystery, thrills and drama. Once you think you have the story figured out, it takes another unexpected turn.”  Kim Wise

“‘1Q84,’ by Haruki Murakami. Dystopian love story set in late 80’s ‘two-mooned’ Tokyo … Split into three distinct ‘books’ with alternating narratives, clocks in at 3K+ pages: more than sufficient to get through June lockdown.“ — Brian Carr

“I reread ‘the Grapes of Wrath.’ I liked it because it showed what people working together can do, but also what people who are fearful can do to those in times of uncertainty.” — J Edgar Mihelic 

Thanks for reading the Chicago Afternoon Edition.Got a story you think we missed? Email us here.

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