Parents from across the city gathered outside Chicago Public Schools headquarters in the Loop Wednesday, calling for improved special education services.
The protest was in response to a recent WBEZ-FM report exposing a “secret manual” for special education policies that concerned parents say cause significant delays in — and even prevention of — services. Several parents and educators shared stories of their struggle to obtain the necessary services for special education students.
Later, some of the parents went inside to the Chicago Board of Education’s meeting at the headquarters, 42 W. Madison St., to voice their concerns. They presented a letter signed by over 1,000 parents and citizens, calling on CPS and Mayor Rahm Emanuel to halt their use of the manual. They also urged the firing of CPS CEO Forrest Claypool.
Claypool has previously disputed those findings. In an Oct. 23 letter to principals, Claypool said the the WBEZ investigation “provided inaccurate and misleading information” on CPS reforms that included new guidelines and criteria for special education.
Terri Smith, the parent of a fourth-grade special education student at Ray Elementary School, was one of many parents at Wednesday’s protest.
“We’re here because CPS sees fit to try to balance its budget on the backs of special education students,” said Smith.
Smith said CPS parents and students have been dealing with hefty documentation requirements that led to services being delayed or denied. “What’s going on now just formalizes what’s been going on for years,” said Smith.
Amy Da Lafuente, a former CPS preschool educator and a parent of two CPS students, held a sign that read “Shame On You.” De Lafuente is a member of grassroots organization Raise Your Hand Illinois, and a longtime advocate of education reform. She said she attended the meeting to call for an elected Board of Education.
“There is no oversight for what the school board is doing,” said De Lafuente. “There is no parental input whatsoever.”
The WBEZ investigation that spurred the protest, “CPS Secretly Overhauled Special Education at Students’ Expense” was written by Sarah Karp and published on Oct. 16.
In an Oct. 23 letter to principals, Claypool said the the WBEZ investigation “provided inaccurate and misleading information” on CPS reforms that included new guidelines and criteria for special education.