The Chicago Public Schools’ 2016 overhaul of special education was a historic debacle. But the disgrace that is special education in Chicago is not new.
The Illinois State Board of Education’s investigation of special education in CPS — as we welcome a new CEO — provides a critical opportunity.
As CPS struggles with budgets, special education will always be looked at for efficiencies. Special education is expensive, particularly when it’s ineffective. Where can we improve quality while limiting expense?
The answer is to tap into the most underutilized resource of all: parents.
I have worked on behalf of CPS students for 25 years as a teacher, a Local School Council member and a paid consultant to organizations working with Chicago youth. My most demanding role, however, has been advocating for my now-graduated daughter with special needs, and many other families in similar situations.
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act identifies parents as a requisite part of the team charged with developing a students’ Individualized Education Program.
However, this involvement is not well described or supported. Borrowing from the Family Centered Care Model in medicine — designed in part to reduce health care costs — CPS can acknowledge the expertise of parents in helping understand the needs, resources and abilities of each child. Applying the four key elements of this model to education (Dignity and Respect, Information Sharing, Participation and Collaboration) provides a simple outline for developing a program to guide and train both educators and parents.
This work will be challenging and will require time, resources and strategy. Providing access for ALL families will be a critical hurdle. But by identifying stories of success under new leadership, together we can build a model for the future that positions CPS as a leader in special education.
Lara Pruitt, North Center
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Immigrants are crucial to economic growth
Our country’s positive economic situation today should mostly be attributed to President Obama’s response to the Great Recession, which he inherited in January 2009 from President Bush, and his informed and thoughtful shepherding for the eight years following.
In our current full-employment economy, aggressive efforts to deport illegal immigrants are a huge mistake. Companies and farming interests need immigrants, legal or not, as employees right now and into the future. We also need their income taxes and their payments into the social safety net.
Many of the Dreamers and protected status immigrants are functioning successfully in our economy and deserve to stay. Being blindly anti-immigrant is painting with a broad brush and essentially counterproductive.
Mary F. Warren, Wheaton