Shhhh… 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 Include 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.

Special Needs Action Alert: Keep Pay For Success Out of ESEA

imageFrom Bev Johns:

MESSAGE: Oppose and remove the Goldman Sachs Pay for Success parts of S. 1177 in Conference Committee – Do NOT allow the use of Federal funds to pay Goldman Sachs for each child NOT identified for special education (as is happening in Utah and in Chicago with State and local funding).
Pay for Success does not belong in ESEA.  Using Pay for Success, Utah is keeping over 99 percent of students out of special education, violating the Federal special education law, IDEA.

Members of the Conference Committee (which meets today, Thursday):

U.S. SENATORS (contact Alexander and Murray and your Senator)
Lamar Alexander (R) Tennessee, Chair, Senate Education (HELP) Committee
Patty Murray (D) Washington, top Democrat, HELP Committee
Mike Enzi (R) Wyoming
Richard Burr (R) North Carolina
Johnny Isakson (R) Georgia
Rand Paul (R) Kentucky
Susan Collins (R) Maine
Lisa Murkowski (R) Alaska
Mark Kirk (R) Illinois
Tim Scott (R) South Carolina
Orrin Hatch (R) Utah
Pat Roberts (R) Kansas
Bill Cassidy (R) Louisiana
Barbara Mikulski (D) Maryland
Bernie Sanders (I) Vermont
Bob Casey, Jr. (D) Pennsylvania
Al Franken (D) Minnesota
Michael Bennett (D) Colorado
Sheldon Whitehouse (D) Rhode Island
Tammy Baldwin (D) Wisconsin
Chris Murphy (D) Connecticut
Elizabeth Warren (D) Massachusetts

U.S. REPRESENTATIVES (contact Kline and Scott and your Rep.)
John Kline (R) Minnesota, Chair House Education Committee
Bobby Scott (D) Virginia, top Democrat, House Education Committee
Virginia Foxx (R) North Carolina
Dr. Phil Roe (R) Tennessee
Glenn Thompson (R) Pennsylvania
Brett Guthrie (R) Kentucky
Todd Rokita (R) Indiana
Glenn Grothman (R) Wisconsin
Carlos Curbelo (R) Florida
Luke Messer (R) Indiana
Steve Russell (R) Oklahoma
Marcia Fudge (D) Ohio
Susan Davis (D) California
Jared Polis (D) Colorado
Frederica Wilson (D) Florida
Suzanne Bonamic (D) Oregon
Katherine Clark (D) Massachusetts

There are two (2) problems in Utah: (1) increased payments of public funds to Goldman Sachs each year over many years because Utah identified too many
students as at risk of being identified for special ed, and (2) Utah violating IDEA by identifying less than 1 percent of students in Pay for Success as needing special education.

As the New York Times stated –
The program’s unusual success — and the payments to Goldman that were in direct proportion to that success — were based on what researchers say was a faulty assumption that many of the children in the program would have needed special education without the preschool, despite there being little evidence or previous research to indicate that this was the case.

“We’re all happy if Goldman Sachs makes money as long as they are making it with smart investments that make a real difference,” said Clive Belfield, an economics professor at Queens College in New York, who studies early childhood education.

“Here they seem to have either performed a miracle, or these kids weren’t in line for special education in the first place.”


On Tuesday, November 17, 2015, the U.S. House voted to go to Conference Committee with the U.S. Senate on the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA – which used to be called No Child Left Behind) to write a final version of the legislation.

On October 28, 2015, a majority of the 15 Statewide associations
that are Members of ISELA, the Illinois Special Education Coalition, voted to oppose the inclusion in ESEA of Pay for Success as a possible use of Federal funds authorized under ESEA.

In Chicago and in Utah, Pay for Success pays investors Goldman Sachs and the Pritzker Family for each child NOT identified as needing special education. Utah claims a 99% success rate.
This program creates a disincentive for schools to identify students that need specialized and individualized education. It is a violation of the Federal special education law, IDEA, that mandates schools identify all students in need of special education.

Pay for Success funding is more like a high interest (to 100% or more) loan than a bond.
Through this program private investors are paid EACH YEAR if students are not identified as needing special education. It commits school funds to paying private investors for NOT having to provide special education services in the future.
The annual pay back to investors (escrow payments as well as yearly payments for each student not identified as needing special education services) is exorbitant. As structured in Chicago and Utah, investors would make money, possibly doubling their investment in Pay for Success, forcing schools to use an increasingly large percentage of future local, State and Federal money it receives to provide services to do just the opposite, NOT provide services to students.
There are no objective ways of determining which students may be in need of special education in the future and thus eligible to participate in Pay for Success.

What can YOU do?
(1) Share this email. Most people are not aware of Pay for Success.
Most people (even in D.C.) are not aware Pay for Success is in both
the House and Senate ESEA bills, and will be in the FINAL ESEA
bill unless a determined effort is made to remove it.
(2) Contact any National organization to which you belong.
Ask them what they are doing about Pay for Success in ESEA.
Ask them if they know what is happening in Utah and in Chicago
on paying investors in Pay for Success for each child NOT identified
for special education.
Ask them is they are aware that Utah claims it is stopping 99 percent
of children at risk of being identified as needing special education
from actually entering special education.
(3) Call U.S. Senators from Illinois Richard Durbin ( 202.224.2152 )
and Mark Kirk ( 202-224-2854 ) and your U.S. Representative.
Ask them to help you get Pay for Success removed from ESEA
in the Conference Committee on S. 1177.
Urge Mark Kirk, as a Member of the Conference Committee, to
make a motion to REMOVE Pay for Success from S. 1177.
(4) Share this message with friends/relatives in other States.

Bev Johns

Hungering for Justice in Rahm Emanuel’s Racist Chicago

Some FB friends of mine from across the City started discussing how those of us who support the 15 Dyett Hunger Strikers in their effort to open Dyett Global Leadership and Green Technology High School can help increase awareness of and help to grow the momentum for the Fight for Dyett.  This is my attempt to shine a light on Mayor Emanuel and CPS’ shell game that further separates the diverse and vibrant working-class communities in our City: 

Bringing Truth to The Mayor’s Mendacity

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and CPS’s Spinmeisters are working fast and furiously to get those Dyett Hunger Strikers and everyone who supports them to just shut up and go away.  The real reason they have chosen to deny Dyett’s proposal is campaign-donor driven and all about the money.  CPS does not want a strong neighborhood school to impact the marketing opportunities of the private Charter Schools that have popped up like weeds in poor black and brown neighborhoods.  In addition, it was a HUGE embarrassment to the Mayor to have two of his budget town hall meetings shut down by Dyett protesters and CPS made a hastily planned announcement to deny the Coalition to Revitalize Dyett High School’s Proposal for the future of Dyett High School and threw together some half-@$$%& self-proclaimed “compromise” so that Mayor Emanuel would not have to suffer the indignity of a third night of his town-hall meeting being shut down.  The announcement was made with approximately 15 minutes notice to the Dyett Hunger Strikers, who were barred from even attending the event.  Mayor Emanuel and Forrest Claypool stood with a phalanx of black “leaders” who have a history of selling out the very people they purport to lead, including a minister who paid protesters to speak in favor of closing Dyett High School.  (Excuse me, but just the thought of the cynical nature of this move on the part of Mayor Emanuel, makes me feel the need to shower to get the grossness off me.)

The Hunger Strikers are in their 29th Day of valiantly protesting CPS’ denial of the Coalition to Revitalize Dyett’s plan for Dyett Global Leadership and Green Technology High School.

Racism, Classism and The Have and Have Nots Systems
are Alive and Well in Rahm Emanuel’s Chicago

I could write a fictional account of the story of brave and noble parents and community hunger strikers facing off against a power-hungry and greedy egomanic mayor.  I could tell this story against the backdrop of a wealthy, predominantly white, trendy neighborhood versus an economically struggling, but up and coming and culturally vibrant black neighborhood.  I would then probably be told by my editor that the story line was heavy-handed and unrealistic…but this is happening right now in Chicago!  

Last week, there was a ribbon cutting for a $21 Million dollar addition to Lincoln Elementary School in Lincoln Park, at which Dyett Hunger Strikers called out Mayor Emanuel on the racial and economic inequity of his education policies.  In predominantly white and affluent Lincoln Park, Lincoln Elementary received a $21 Million dollar addition even though many Lincoln Parkers said they didn’t want the addition because: (1) it took away what little green space was near the existing school; (2) it would lead to more traffic headaches in already-congested Lincoln Park; (3) there was and are plenty of empty seats at nearby Manierre Elementary just south of North Avenue that could serve students on the south side of the current Lincoln Park Elementary boundaries and that Manierre is actually closer to those families living on the south side of the Lincoln Elementary boundaries; and (4) it was unjust to treat the people in this affluent, predominantly white neighborhood differently than the people in poor black and brown neighborhoods, many of whose children have seen their neighborhood schools shuttered and have been forced to travel much further distances for what is not always a better-performing school.

The two maps below show the boundaries of Lincoln Elementary and Manierre Elementary.  Mayor Emanuel is so desperate to hold sway with his wealthier, predominantly white constituents, that he panders to them by giving them an addition that many, many said they did not want.  It is significant that the racial makeup of Manierre is 94% Black and 0.3% white, while Lincoln Elementary is 11% Black and 64% White.

Map of Lincoln Elementary Boundaries from CPS website

Map of Lincoln Elementary Attendance Boundaries from CPS website.

fullscreen Manierre

Map of Manierre Elementary Attendance Boundaries from CPS website.

If Your Children Attend a Neighborhood School in Chicago,
Dyett Is About You

There is an egregious, racist and classist double standard in Rahm Emanuel’s Chicago.  Some people of privilege willingly ignore the injustice, some think the Dyett struggle doesn’t apply to them and some are just unaware of the herculean effort put forth by so many individuals to bring the vision of promise of a bright future, economic power and justice to the children in the Bronzeville Community.  The Dyett Hunger Strikers have jumped through every hoop Rahm Emanuel and his staff have put in their way and are desperately, righteously fighting for the right of people of color to have a meaningful voice in the education of their children.

The Proposal for the Dyett Global Leadership and Green Technology High School is phenomenal, unique, relevant, sustainable and worthy and there is no GOOD reason why CPS should deny this Community this school of their own design.  Here is the link to the proposal.

The denial of this wonderful, educationally-sound, forward-thinking proposal for the Dyett Global Leadership and Green Technology would never happen in a predominantly white, more affluent neighborhood.  Below is the list of the organizations who came together to form a Coalition to Revitalize Dyett along with their websites.  Had this proposal to reopen a shuttered, but needed, neighborhood high school been put forward in Lincoln Park, Sauganash or Edison Park, CPS would be jumping through hoops to bring about the phenomenal plan that these organizations have been working on for years.

Annenberg Institute for School Reform at Brown University (

Black Metropolis Convention & Tourism Council (

Blacks in Green (

Chicago Botanic Garden (

Chicago Jazz Society

Chicago Teacher’s Union (

Du Sable Museum of African American History (

Kenwood Oakland Community Organization (

Teachers for Social Justice (

The Plant (

University of Illinois at Chicago College of Education (

On this, the 29th Day of the Hunger Strike of the Dyett 12 (now Dyett 15), the struggle for justice is very clear.  This action is not about one school on the north side of Hyde Park in Chicago.  It is the demand for respect, dignity and self-determination for a strong coalition of voices in a relatively poor, primarily black neighborhood in Chicago.  It is about the fight for equal educational opportunity for the poor and people of color nationwide.   It is also about the future of public education in our country, because, unless we citizens stand up against the kind of greedy, profit-driven policies that are at the heart of Rahm Emanuel’s Chicago, the Privatizers are coming for your children’s neighborhood school in the not too distant future.  True justice will only be achieved for this group in Chicago after Rahm Emanuel and CPS heeds the righteous call of the Coalition for the Revitalization of Dyett and commit to open Bronzeville’s Dyett Global Leadership and Green Technology High School.  Mayor Emanuel’s failure to do so is racist, classist and a slap in the face to the dedicated brave men and women who have literally worked for YEARS and who are literally putting their health and lives on the line to bring attention to THEIR fight for THEIR Community and THEIR Vision for THEIR Open Enrollment Neighborhood High School.

We all want opportunity for our kids.  People of Good Will, please support the Brave Dyett Hunger Strikers as they fight for the future of their Children’s Education and their Community!

Please call Mayor Emanuel’s Office daily at 312.744.3300 until he commits to open the Coalition to Revitalize Dyett’s Proposal for the Dyett Global Leadership and Green Technology High School.

Please also ask your other elected officials to support the Coalition to Revitalize Dyett’s Proposal for the Dyett Global Leadership and Green Technology High School, by following this link:

I write this in support of the dedicated, honorable and brave 15 Dyett Hunger Strikers.  You have my everlasting respect and admiration.

Dr. Aisha Wade-Bey

Anna Jones

April Stogner

Cathy Dale

Irene Robinson

Jeanette Taylor-Ramann

Jitu Brown

Marc Kaplan

Dr. Monique Redeaux-Smith

Nelson Soza

Prudence Browne

Rev. Robert Jones

Asif Wilson

Brandon Johnson

Susan Hurley




Dyett Hunger Strikers