State Board Finds CPS Violated IDEA, Appoints Monitor To Oversee Changes

Nancy Harty
May 17, 2018 - 8:15 am

CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO) -- The state has ordered Chicago Public Schools to overhaul its special education system and is appointing a monitor to oversee the changes.

The State Board found that specific CPS policies and practices violated the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, which protects students’ right to a free and appropriate public education. The State Board will meet with CPS to begin mapping out expeditious implementation of the recommendations.

“The corrective action and recommendations we offered today are the right first step to helping CPS fully serve all children and families,” said State Superintendent of Education Tony Smith, Ph.D, in a statement. “The common good requires uncommonly good public schools. With the State Board’s action today, the Public Inquiry process concludes, and the road to transformation begins.”

Advocates who filed a complaint against the district in October are thrilled with the Illinois State Board of Education's decision.

Attorney Matt Cohen said ISBE's public inquiry found systemic problems that show CPS harmed thousands of children by delaying or denying services mandated under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

"The entire system was operating in a way that was illegal with respect to the decisions CPS was making on things like one-ton-one aids," he said.

Christine Palmieri is happy the state has ordered changes but said to some extent it's too late for students like her son, a 9-year-old with autism who had to wait six months for an aide.

"The trajectory of his future has been changed forever. There's no compensatory service that can replace the time that he needed the supports and services that he wasn't receiving," Palmieri said.

CPS Schools CEO Janice Jackson said while they were hoping to avoid having a monitor, they accept the findings and will right the wrongs.

She said the district has already changed policies and procedures that parents and teacher complained about.

But Chicago Teachers Union Vice President, Jesse Sharkey is skeptical.

"I want to know how it is that the same people who responsible for turning a deaf ear to these problems, are now turning over a new leaf,"

Special Education Teacher Natasha Carlsen is also skeptical of that, saying there is still a burdensome level of paperwork in the electronic Individualized Education Plan system that she believes is designed to prevent students from getting services.

Advocates suggest all parents whose CPS students have IEPs review them to see if they qualify for compensatory services, such as money for tutors or after school support.