Shhhhh… CPS is Systematically Disinvesting in Kids with Special Needs

In the Good Ole’ Summertime…

To give you some background, every summer CPS professional staff (special education teachers, speech pathologists, occupational therapists, social workers, nurses and psychologists) come together to enroll incoming CPS students who have special needs.   Students are identified, assessed and IEP Teams (parents, special ed teacher, gen ed teacher and any appropriate clinicians) meet to write the child’s federally-mandated Individualized Education Plan.  This plan is supposed to be driven by the child’s individual needs, as determined by the individual child’s IEP Team.  This is the plan that guides the child’s school experience and is supposed to be thoughtfully and collaboratively designed by the child’s parents and the team of professionals that make up the IEP Team.

Legal Rights?  We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Legal Rights!

In the past few years, CPS has systematically attempted to undermined special education services through student-based special education “All Means All” budgeting program; making unilateral decisions to “max out” special education student-to-teacher ratios in instructional settings (even where inappropriate); cutting paraprofessional staffing to such an extent that IEP plans could not be followed; and trying to shut down successful instructional special education programs across the City.

Sung to the tune of “Plausible Deniability”:  I’m New At This Job and Have No Special Education Credentials

CPS has a new head of the “Office Of Diverse Learners Supports and Services” (ODLSS)… Patrick Baccellieri, a long-time CPS administrator who does NOT have a degree in special education and has attained this top job at the pay of $178,000-a-year… which happens to be $8,000 more a year than his predecessor (who had a boatload of special ed credentials, not that it mattered much when the budget slashing marching orders were delivered).  Mr. Baccellieri is the head yes man, uh, I mean, honcho of CPS Special Education and he is quietly leading the charge to do this…

Shhhhhhhhh…  ODLSS Won’t Put It In Writing, But Summer Assessment Clinicians Have To Get Approval From Principals and ODLSS Prior to Including The Following in an IEP:  (1) Instructional Placement; (2) Paraprofessional Support; (3) Bus Service.  Oh, And They Better Hurry Up!

I was recently contacted by a CPS Clinician who is elbows-deep in summer assessments for incoming CPS students with special needs, who shared the following about this year’s process:

  • ODLSS is pushing blended placement on preschoolers with special needs by denying the instructional placement recommendations of the Clinicians doing summer assessments unless they have approval from ODLSS and the school Principal!!!  What!!!????  The only people who should have input into the placement decision for a child with an IEP is the IEP Team.  What this means in practical terms is that little preschoolers with inadequate support will flounder, suffer and waste months or even years in a busy blended classroom, unless or until a grown-up intervenes and asks for another IEP meeting.  By that time, instructional placement could become difficult, with instructional classrooms at a premium since so many children will be inappropriately given “blended” placement.  This means upheaval and disruption for our little ones who are already at a disadvantage because of their disabilities.  Remember, these are critical developmental years that could make the difference between  a lifetime of dependence and a full, independent life for our kids.    
  • ODLSS is denying paraprofessional support for students without secondary approval from ODLSS and the school Principal.  Paraprofessional support can mean success or failure for many students with special needs, especially when navigating the general education classroom environment.  Paraprofessionals are at the top of the “If-Only-We-Could-Contract-These-People-Out-So-MRE’s-Campaign-Donors-Can-Make-A-Profit” List for CPS.  Every year CPS brass comes in with a metaphorical machete to slash the paraprofessional budget, to the detriment of the kids in the classroom.  
  • ODLSS is steering (no pun intended) Clinicians away from offering busing services for students with special needs.  If parents and caregivers new to CPS don’t know that their children may have the right to bus service and the IEP team members “in the know” don’t mention it, it doesn’t get included in the IEP and CPS doesn’t have to pay for busing.  
  • ODLSS is instructing CPS Clinicians to complete the testing, assessment reports and IEP meetings within two hours so they can complete three cases per work day.  This time limit on the tasks, paperwork and meetings necessary to establish a new student with special needs within the CPS system is irresponsible and short-sighted.  CPS has hired professionals who need time to properly do their jobs and our children deserve the thoughtful, federally-mandated, individual education plan that meets each child’s needs.

Dear Mr. Baccellieri, please tell me in writing that what I have set out above is untrue and that you are not attempting to balance the budget on the backs of our neediest kids.

Dear Dedicated CPS Clinicians, please tell me if this post makes a difference in what the IEP team is “allowed” to give to our kids at the IEP meeting.

Dear Parents of Little Ones who have special needs,  do your best in the face of an overwhelming transition and fear about your child’s future to connect with an advocate BEFORE your child’s IEP meeting.  There is power in communication.  Much love and all the best to you and your child.

One thought on “Shhhhh… CPS is Systematically Disinvesting in Kids with Special Needs

  1. Saw your post linked on the Early Intervention Facebook page. I’m an EI social worker, and have attended many of these evaluations over many years. Thanks so much for writing the post, which rings very true to me. I’m wondering if you have received any CPS responses? I have had some very bad experiences this spring/summer, where we had to fight for even minimal services for very needy kids, but also had two recent good experiences. I have definitely seen an attempt to cut back on related services overall, including routinely offering nothing or 15 minutes/week of needed therapies, which, as you know, is basically nothing, and denying kids transportation, which they have been pretty explicit about. I’m thinking CPS must think that even if they are wrong and eventually will be sued and court ordered to resume providing transportation so that kids can access their IEP’s, they will save money in the meantime. Disgusting. But, like I said, I’ve also had two recent good outcomes, including a kiddo today who was given a needed instructional program and fairly significant (30-45 minutes a week) services. Also

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