In Defense of Class Size Limits for Special Education Students: An Open Letter to Illinois State Superintendent of Education Dr. Christopher Koch

2 Apr


I received a copy of this open letter that was sent to the State Superintendent pleading not to eliminate the special education class size cap.

Dear Dr. Koch:

The undersigned Social Workers, Nurses, Occupational Therapists,  and Speech Language Pathologist employed with Chicago Public Schools are writing to protest your proposal to remove the Illinois State Board of Education rules that limit the number of children with disabilities that can be assigned to a single class room based on certain criteria.

As clinicians who serve students with disabilities we feel your proposal does not accord with our ethical obligation to do no harm and therefore we must voice our dissent.   Unsurprisingly, your proposal is consistent with CPS’ agenda to close authentic public schools and warehouse children in the ones remaining as cheaply as possible.  CPS could potentially close 61 public schools.  This is a recipe for impractical transitions, exploding class sizes and chaotic learning conditions for our students with special needs.  Your proposal will effectively permit school districts to reduce expenditures by rolling back the rights of its most vulnerable student population.

To be sure, we fully support the maximum possible integration of children receiving special education into the general education environment as illustrated through the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and the Cory H. decision in Illinois.  IDEA provides for a continuum of services with variable arrangements across several settings based on student need.   We have observed that CPS rarely provides adequate supports for full integration of children with disabilities even with legal mandates in place.  Weakening protective legislation is plain wrong-headed.   When compliance violations occur typical working class parents—a single mother with a child who has autism for instance— are hard pressed to find the resources to appeal for justice.   As we understand it, there are no provisions in your proposal to address this deeply problematic reality.

We are proud that CPS does not turn any student away.  Students who use wheelchairs that have space requirements to navigate around desks and class mates, students with behavioral sequelae of post-traumatic stress disorder who may pose a safety risk to themselves or  others, students with cognitive impairments who need daily assistance to do basic self-care activities like use the bathroom or eat a meal, students who have chronic and complex medical conditions such as seizure disorder and students with significant learning disabilities who need constant adult support to attend to task and learn new information all belong to the CPS family.  In fact, we recommend that class size limits be honored for the good teaching they allow and extended beyond the scope of special education.

Trading off our student’s welfare to cut costs is educational injustice. All children have the right to a free, a public and a quality education that provides them with the tools to become independent, happy, successful adults.  Dr. Koch, we CPS clinicians stand with our parents and community members in demanding that you withdraw your proposal to lift necessary limits on class sizes for children with special needs.


Anita Barraza

Carol Hayse

Saria Lofton

Marilena Marchetti

Carrie L. Nutter

Jennifer O’Connell

Helen Ramirez-Odell

Lourdes Rodriguez

Lamees Talhami

Sheryl Thomas

CTU to Host Student Closing Bus Tour

“In response, the Chicago Teachers Union has organized a bus tour for elected officials and members of the press of school communities destabilized by school closings. The tour starts at 10:00 a.m. on Thursday, April 4 and will depart from SEIU Healthcare Illinois, 940 W. Adams St.”

Union Head Calls CPS Ads funded by Walton Foundation “Corporate Propaganda”

“”We don’t appreciate the outside influence that these anti-union organizations have,” CTU President Karen Lewis told Tuesday. She pointed out that representatives from the Walton Family Foundation were on site at a series of community meetings organized by the district to gather public input as the closure list was whittled down.”

The UNO Papers

“Kevin Gillian said his company, TFC Canopy, was the subcontractor that had supplied the shiny aluminum panels for the exterior of UNO ‘s sparkling new soccer-themed elementary school at 51st and Homan. It was in that capacity that he had been solicited for a campaign donation – and gladly complied, he said.”
“”Mr. Emanuel, I would love to meet you on 67th and Ashland, where I’m from, and give you a tour,” Carroll said as she and other protesters criticized the mayor for not personally visiting some of the schools CPS has elected to close.”
:”On nice days, Dever students get to go outside and play on the asphalt playground. The school used to have a lawn, but the city put a library on it. The city put a library on it because former mayor Richard Daley promised Dunning residents he’d give them a neighborhood library, but apparently there wasn’t enough money to buy the land for it. Since the mayor oversees both the schools and the libraries, Daley was able to cut a deal with himself.”
“Perhaps the most startling finding is that a significant chunk–about 3,000–are high school dropouts applying for alternative schools. What’s more, saying that 19,000 students are on waiting lists to get into charter schools ignores another figure: there are between 3,000 and 5,000 available seats in charter schools right now, according to charter advocates.”

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