CHICAGO - A former Chicago Public Schools teacher is suing, claiming the school district fired her for speaking out about special education funding cuts.
Calling it retaliation for being outspoken, Sarah Chambers says Chicago Public Schools and Mayor Rahm Emanuel don't want anyone challenging their special education policies. CPS says Chambers was fired for serious misconduct involving standardized tests and manipulation of students.
Chambers has been a Chicago Public Schools special education teacher at Saucedo Elementary School since she graduated from college eight years ago. The 31-year-old has spent the same amount of time as one of the teachers union's most vocal members.
In recent years, Chambers has taken her fight against special education cuts to school board meetings, budget hearings and protests. She was fired in April. Chambers believes she lost her job over activism.
"They want to silence all special education teacher advocates. It is clear they are targeting me and fired me because I'm a whistleblower on CPS education law," she said.
In a lawsuit filed Friday, the former teacher says she was fired for disclosing violations of special educational laws.
"She has never been disciplined for advocacy in the past. Now, all of sudden, she is the world's worst person," said Karen Lewis, Chicago Teachers Union president.
But CPS says Chambers' firing has nothing to do with her activism. CPS dismissal charges accuse Chambers of misconduct associated with the PARCC test and improper manipulation and use of CPS students. CPS says Chambers removed and transported Saucedo students, without approval, to a school board meeting.
"The school board has come up with bogus allegations against Sarah as justification because it doesn't want to hear what she has to say," said Josiah Groff, Chambers' attorney.
Chambers says she wants her job back at Saucedo Elementary, where she says her students need her. In a written response to the lawsuit, CPS reiterated the violations spelled out in the CPS dismissal charges. Chambers will have an opportunity to present her case to an independent Illinois State Board of Education hearing officer.