Parents, CPS teachers demand more resources for special education

Sarah Schulte Image
Tuesday, December 20, 2016
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Parents and teachers held a rally Tuesday night to keep resources for special education in Chicago Public Schools.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Parents and teachers held a rally Tuesday night to keep resources for special education in Chicago Public Schools.

The Chicago Teacher's Union says special ed is suffering due to budget cuts. The rally at City Hall sought to bring the issue to the mayor's doorstep.

According to a recent CTU survey, members at 70 percent of schools said they did not have enough resources to meet special education needs. CPS denies special ed students are getting shortchanged.

More resources for special education has become the rallying cry for the CTU and for many parents with special needs children, including Anastasia Chapital. She said CPS recently cut bus service for her autistic son Josh because he does not go to his neighborhood school.

"I was advised, 'Well, you have to find a way to get him there.' So now you're discriminating against me, because I don't have a car," Chapital said.

Chapital now walks her son home several blocks every day. She chose to send Josh to Beasley Academy because she said it provides better services for the 6-year-old, and is rated higher academically than her neighborhood school. She does not want to pull him out of Beasley.

"Being autistic, he doesn't transition well to new environments or new people very easily," she said.

The CTU said special education services are in crisis at CPS. CTU said overall budget cuts have had a huge impact on special ed.

"Working conditions in special education classrooms are very difficult. There are- caseloads are too large, paperwork demands are increasing, you're trying to do more with less," said Jesse Sharkey, CTU vice president.

According to CPS, the number of students with individual education plans, known as IEPs, have gone up during the past four years. The union said the biggest issue is 600 unfilled special education vacancies.

"CPS is having a hard time filling positions because of the underinvestment and stress that is caused," Sharkey said.

CPS denies special education is in crisis and said its student-per-teacher, or paraprofessional, ratio is lower than other urban school districts. In addition, CPS said the amount of money it spends per student has gone up by over $1,600 in the last six years.