CPS Budget Cuts

The long-rumored budget cuts have finally been announced.  Click below for the CPS press release, and let me know what you think. 

CPS Announces Central
Office Pay Freeze

Will Affect Administrators
Making More Than $40,000, Save $4.5 Million;

Principals, Assistant
Principals and Teachers Will Receive 4% Pay Raises

      In
continuing its efforts to slash administrative costs, the Chicago Public
Schools has announced that the salaries of more than 1,300 central office
administrators will be frozen for the next budget year.  The freeze
does not apply to principals and assistant principals, who will receive
the same 4% raise as teachers next year.

      We
need to be as lean and efficient as possible, because our schools need
every available dollar, said CPS Chief Executive Officer Arne Duncan,
who will be affected by the freeze. Were facing a major budget
deficit, which means drastic cuts have to be made. And the first place
we always look to make cuts is the central office.

      The
salary freeze will affect non-school-based administrators who make more
than $40,000 per yeara total of 1,363 employees. The savings are
estimated at $4.5 million. Overall, the CPS has committed to making
between $25 and $30 million in administrative cuts to help balance its
budget.

      Duncan
chose not to apply the pay freeze to principals and assistant principals
after meeting with Clarice Berry, President of the Chicago Principals
and Administrators Association.  She made the case that school
leaders deserve to be rewarded for their hard work, and I agree. 
Theyre in the schools, where the learning happens, Duncan said.

      Under
the current CPS budget, administrative costs account for less than 5%
of the school systems overall operating expenses. That was the result
of budget moves made last year, including eliminating more than 200
central office jobs and limiting cost-of-living raises to 2% for principals
and administrators.  Duncan expects to get administrative costs
down to 4% by next year.

      We
still have more cutting to do at the central office, which should be
finalized next week, Duncan added. Then well need to make some
very tough decisions on program cuts to get closer to balancing the
budget. But we feel confident that, with the additional $100 million
in funding provided by Gov. Blagojevich and the state legislature, well
be able to keep the cuts from reaching inside the classroom.

      In
addition to the administrative cuts, the CPS plans to take $75 million
from its reserve funds and get $15 million in efficiencies from the
areas of transportation, food service, maintenance, and custodial service.
That leaves a budget gap of about $113 million, and the school system
is looking for additional cost savings in several areas to help balance
the budget. Those areas include after-school, summer school, special
education, and early childhood programs.

      The
Chicago Board of Education is expected to vote on the school systems
Fiscal Year 2007 budget at its June 28 meeting. Public hearings on the
budget will be held June 20 at Lincoln Park High School, 2001 N. Orchard
St., June 21 at Finkl Elementary School, 2332 S. Western Ave., and Harlan
Community Academy, 9652 S. Michigan Ave. Each hearing begins at 7 p.m.
Registration for public comment begins at 6 p.m.

-- 30 --

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  • STATEMENT TO THE BOARD OF EDUCATION OF THE CITY OF CHICAGO

    MAY 24, 2006

    President Scott, Mr. Duncan, Dr. Eason-Watkins, and members of the Board,

    My name is Rodney Estvan and I am the Education Outreach Coordinator for Access Living of Metro Chicago. Access Living is as you may know an organization built by and serving the interests of people with disabilities in Chicago. Access Living has for many years now been advocating for and on behalf of students with disabilities attending the Chicago Public Schools. From 1998 until only two weeks ago I was a consultant for the Office of the Court appointed Monitor in the Corey H. case and was often in CPS schools directly observing the education of students with disabilities.

    We have come before this Board to object to the special education personnel reductions that the CPS administrators have publicly indicated will occur at the end of this fiscal year. Before we discuss what little the public knows about the extent of these reductions in force we need to place these cuts in the context of staff reductions that have been occurring for several school years now. We know based on the CPSs Office of Specialized Services own end of year reports that just between FY03 and FY04 there was a reduction of about 4.2% of all special education teaching positions, for special education classroom aides there was a cut of 29.2%, and an additional 15.1% cut took place for what were then called child welfare attendants.

    We do not have data for the FY05 year, but we do know that additional special education reductions took place at the end of FY05 and that every instructional special education educational support position in the school system was subjected to review and principals were required to provide to the CPS central administration justification for each of these positions. A more detailed audit of all high school special education positions was conducted in the spring of 2005 that resulted in an unknown reduction in positions. There were also some cuts to the specialized services administration at the conclusion of the conclusion of FY05 and these cuts have in my opinion has made it extremely difficult for the CPS to successfully conclude its Corey H. Settlement Agreement, which is being extended.

    On January 23rd 2006 CPS Chief Executive Officer Arne Duncan laid out budget challenges facing the school system in an address to the City Club of Chicago. In this address and in a CPS press release related to it Mr. Duncan specifically indicated that the CPS was looking at cuts to non-essential special-education programs. By February 15, 2006 Pedro Martinez Director of the CPS Office of Management and Budget, CPS spokesperson Peter Cunningham, and other unnamed school district officials were cited in press reports consistently stating that 300 to 400 special education teaching and education educational support positions would be cut by the end of this school year. By April Mr. Martinez was being reported in the Chicago Tribune as indicating a total of about 200 special education teachers and 750 classroom aides were being eliminated.

    By the end of the first week of May the Illinois State Legislature had developed and approved a new state budget which included approximately 116 million additional dollars for the CPS. In a Chicago Tribune article that appeared on May 9th Mr. Duncan was cited as indicating that these additional funds would allow the school district not to increase class sizes, but Mr. Duncan apparently made no comment to the Tribune about the projected cuts to special education services. We have to assume that the CPS plans at this time to carry out these extensive staff reductions.

    Access Living has been informed by a number of CPS principals that following an appeals process their schools will have to cut special education positions, some of the 1,062 probationary teachers notified of their release appear to have been special education teachers released not for incompetence but due to position cuts. Other job eliminations apparently are yet to occur.

    These special education staff cuts are framed in CPS documents used for FY2007 special education staffing projections as taking into account all legal obligations of the CPS pursuant to each and every CPS student with a disability; frankly Access Living finds that hard to accept even taking into account the principal appeals process developed by the CPS. The Illinois State Board of Education in its annual reports developed pursuant to its Corey H. Settlement Agreement has consistently found that the CPS on a systemic basis lacked sufficient staff to effectively educate many students with disabilities in their least restrictive environments. I personally have found self-contained special education classrooms that have been taught for complete semesters by day to day substitutes with no special education training during my time as a monitor. But probably what is more important is the fact that these reductions impacting special education services do not take into thoughtful consideration either educational outcomes for students with disabilities or an overall analysis of the Chicago Public Schools special education programs.

    The Board should be fully aware that according to Illinois State Board of Education data there is 58.8% graduation rate for CPS students with disabilities compared to about 76.1% of students with disabilities on a state wide basis. No doubt one major reason these students are not graduating are their poor reading skills. The vast majority of students with disabilities who are tested on Prairie State Achievement Examination are considered based on CPS administered psychological testing to be within or above what is considered to be the average range intelligence and therefore there is an expectation that most students with disabilities should be meeting State standards in reading. The Prairie State Achievement Examination which is given to eleventh grade students indicated that in 2005 94.8% of CPS students with disabilities who took the test were reading below state standards, with the overwhelming majority of these students reading at the lowest academic warning level. No matter what reading program this school districts adopts it can not be appropriately implemented for the students whose reading is the very weakest without staff to implement these programs.

    Access Living strongly recommends that the Board authorize an independent study that be made public along the lines of the National Special Education Expenditure Projects 2003 review of the Milwaukee Public Schools which we are providing to Board members. We believe that any such study conducted in Chicago must examine the huge number of disparate CPS initiatives including all aspects of the 2010 project and how they may impact special education costs and performance. Most importantly, the CPS, in any such analysis, needs to develop efficiency indicators for special education services that are linked to the provision of services in the least restrictive environments and educational outcomes for students with disabilities.

    This Board should, in other words, put these special education cuts on the table until it has a framework of analysis for the CPS special education system. Given the extremely poor educational outcomes for our students with disabilities it is unforgivable for this Board to proceed with these cuts.

  • I want to thank those who posted comments relating to Access Living's statement to the CPS Board. We as an organization are attempting to bring together all disability rights adovcates to oppose these projected cuts.

    I would suspect that some who read this are special education teachers and maybe even administrators. I would urge that they speak out against these cuts at the CPS budget hearings. I also know that there are many CPS staff who believe they can not speak out for fear of their jobs. If you know of any CPS special ed. teachers who are leaving the system because they are being cut and have suburban jobs please urge them to come forward. Neither the public at large nor the parents of students with disabilities in the CPS understand fully what is happening in this school district.

    Thanks

  • Access Living is more than willing to work with the CTU on the issue of the special education cuts. We are also willing to work with other labor organizations such as the SEIU which represents some aides.

    Since those of you who are in the union can see my email address please feel free to have the CTU contact me.

    Rod Estvan

  • I am a special education teacher. I have been teaching for 31 years. It took me 6 months of fighting with CPS to get an aide for a child who is a danger to herself and disruptive to other students.I have an extensive anedoctal on this child and dissented at the IEP meeting in November. The aide was with the child for a month and positive behaviors were starting to occur. Now I have been told that the aide is being laid off. The aide is in a special education teacher program and is wonderful with this child. Yesterday the child almost choked to death on a piece

    of candy. This would not have happened if the aide had been with her.I can not teach and monitor this child. If I were a younger special education teacher I would have left for the suburbs.I have only taken off two days this year because I am afraid for this child. I have notified everyone in writing about this situation including the Area, Central Office and ISBE. I would like Rodney Estvan to list his e-mail address on this blog.

  • I am a SPED teacher (who is retiring this school year), a Case Manager, an adult with multiple disabilities and the parent of a person with a disability. I used to teach at Spalding which was closed because they decided too many special ed. students were in one location. In talking to students and staff from Spalding, some students are doing fine but others are struggling because their placements are not truly appropriate and do not represent the least restrictive environment. In my current school, many students do not have the aides which are required in their IEPs. (we have 5 students who need paraprofessional assistance that are not receiving it.)

    They said that the only way a student can get the services is to take it away from another student who needs the help. We are struggling to keep the students in the General Ed. setting but paraprofessional assistance is needed to make this work.

    Unfortunately some of these students may go self-contained because of the denial of needed services. I believe that there are other places that can be cut instead of Special Ed. services.

  • Case managers/gate keepers have been told by special education administrators at central office NOT to allow the need for an aide to be written onto an IEP.They are told this at their monthly case managers meetings.It is another unwritten mandate. It is majority opinion at an IEP meeting. Personnel are told individually BEFORE the IEP meeting not to agree with anyone who brings up the need for an aide. Some personnel do not have tenure and are afraid to go against the case managers. Our parents generally do not know their rights so when the case manager or regional representative spouts the old mantra " your child will become too dependent with an aide" the parent buys it. It is no surpise to me that young special education teachers leave in record numbers.As far as reporting to ISBE there is no violation because the aide was never put on the IEP. At some schools special education aides are NOT being used in special eduaction programs. The case managers know this (spec, ed. tchrs. do not)because they have the provider lists online. Many case managers are accepting a stipend from the school's discretionary fund sometimes as much as $5,500 in addition to the contractual stipend. The principal writes this into the school's budget. So do you think the case manager is going to lose this money by advocating for the child's right to an aide? What a scam! Where do ethics fit into all this?

  • I agree. I do not know of any case manager who is being paid extra money out of the discretionary funds. In my school, we have at least six students who are supposed to have paraprofessional assistance that are not getting it. We are being told that no additional aides can be hired and the job openings are being returned to the principal. In only one case, could the current aide in the classroom be assigned to the student. Two of the students are in General Ed. and would require a separate aide. The paraprofessional is important for them to remain in the least restrictive environment. When ISBE was in our school, they reviewed one student's records and recommended the paraprofessinal. I reconvenued the IEP meeting and wrote in individual aide and wrote a cover letter stating that the recommendation came from ISBE but it is still not being done.

    I spend many hours at home on paperwork, computer work and making phone calls. I am not compensated for any of this time. I am also usually at school at least an hour early and begin work as soon as I get to school.

    I would like to know where these casemanagers are that are making $5000 extra a year.

  • Yes, there are children who need a one on one but it is not being written into the IEP. The case manager will tell the psychologist, nurse and social worker not to agree to an aide. If these three people want to return to the school next year they will do as told. These three people are overworked with huge caseloads. They do not have time to investigate the validity a special education teacher's request for a one on one aide. That is left up to the case manager and all case managers are not created equal. Where are the statistics to prove that "very few case mangers are receiving stipends from discretionary funds"?

    Please remember it is the special education teacher who spends the most time with the student.The region specialist may do a drive by observation and may not observe life threatening behaviors. There are many non-tenured special education teachers and many more who are not certified-they back down in the face of the majority at an IEP meeting.

    Do not forget the high school girl (last year) who was supposed to have an aide

    and was raped in the school washroom because the sub allowed her to leave the room unsupervised. Where was her special education teacher? Where was the case manager? Who was there for that child?

    As far as principals misusing aides-yes it happens and it will continue to happen because there are no punitive measures taken against principals-after all this has been going on for years. This is not an excuse for endangering children. I really think it is reprehensible that five aides will be fired in order to keep one central office administrator.

  • Give PURE the names of at least 2 or three parents who are willing to file a complaint with the Office for Civil Rights (it's free). E-mail pure@pureparents.org or call 312-491-9101. When CPS calls parents into meetings telling them it's routine, then talks them into agreeing to drop the aide from their child's IEP, and when CPS instructs case managers not to allow aides to be written into IEPs, they are conspiring to deprive disabled children of their rights and discriminating against them. OCR can stop that.

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