The Vallas Rollercoaster Continues

A day after publishing a news story that Vallas might get the ax at the end of the school year, the Philadelphia Daily News comes back with an editorial supporting Valllas and thrashing the School Reform Commission for wanting Vallas out. So what's the deal?

The Daily News is, quite possibly, the only tried-and-true left-wing big-city tabloid still operating in this country. (Sun-Times readers can disagree, I suppose.) Vallas' biggest critic on the School Reform Commission is James Gallagher, a Republican.

So is the DN simply playing partisan politics? Maybe. I think it's a bit of a personal smackdown to Gallagher, who is, simply put, a crank. But the other point the editorial makes is more telling: Who would replace Vallas?  Is there any big city superintendent out there right now who is a) worth recruiting and b) would take this job.

And think about it: You're facing a similar issue in Chicago. If Duncan goes, who replaces him? A CPS person? Or does Daley do a national search?

Filed under: The World Outside CPS

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  • To Fedupwithsped and 12:19:

    Between the two school years in question Rene the sp ed chief possibly got around $12,000 more, now that would be based on budget job titles only not her actual name. But was she given that increase because she cut special ed? Do we know that?

    All I can say is this, there was no one in OSS that agreed with the scope of the cuts that came down from budget in January 2006 and were approved by the Board in June.

    There were plenty of people in OSS that thought principals were hiding special education staff and using special ed aides for non-special ed purposes.

    In general OSS wanted to reallocate those resources they correctly or incorrectly believed were not being used correctly by local schools. This has been the general OSS perspective for years.

    If I was Rene I would have resigned rather than carry out the cuts, even after they had been reduced from what budget and Duncan were proposing based on ISBE staffing ratios due to push back from Rene and OSS.

    The people to blame as I said before are Mr. Duncan and the Board, maye even the Mayor. Rene gets paid to implement their policies and she like Sue Gamm before her try their best, believe it or not, to protect students with disabilities as much as they think they can from the budget axe when it falls.

    The OSS central leadership as much as I have publicly disagreed with them are not indifferent to students with disabilities. They are by the nature of their jobs in a very compromised position. Many special edcuation teachers find themselves in a similar spot with disabled students who they know are not getting necessary services, but do not rock the boat at IEP meetings. Teachers do this because they do not believe they can get the services for the children, people in OSS central implement cuts because if they do not they will not have jobs.

    All in all it is not a nice picture. Now that I am on the outside of CPS at least I can say these things and still get paid.

    Rod Estvan

    Access Living of Metro Chicago

  • Responding to 7:17

    I do know that Sue Gamm sometimes reads this blog, so if she wants to she can speak for herself. But let me say this. The CPS director for special ed before Sue was Ms. Green.

    When the Mayor's team took over CPS, special education costs were looked at very critically. Some of the cost analysis done by the city hall team and suggested cuts were objected to by Ms. Green. She left the system and is now heading up special ed in Los Vegas. Sue took over and did implement some of the cuts from what I understand, but she also made the city hall team realize that the orginal thoughts on cost savings were not realistic.

    I can not and will not speak for either Rene or Sue, but I will tell you that the budget pressures placed on all urban school districts special ed. programs are huge. Being an advocate I can say openly what many special education professionals speak privately. School Boards on a national scale, including CPS, look at special edcuation as a burden. They harp endlessly about it being an unfunded mandate.

    Many special education professionals believe the best way to protect students with disabilities is by greater integration of special and regular education. I agree with this perspective because it does provide for greater equality in our society in the long run, but I am fearful also.

    The reason I have reservations is that these same students even with a more intergated special education system are faced with a philosophy of meritocracy on the part of school boards. People like CPS Board President Williams view themselves as being success stories and believe that children who are poor and who work hard can achieve in life. The Mayor believes this too.

    Students with disabilities do not easily fit into this perspective. Even with a far greater investment of educational dollars they often do not achieve to the standards of people like President Williams or the Mayor. They believe the whole special ed system is broken.

    What I fear is that students with disabilities could return to their situation of the 1960s, where only the most obviously disabled students where given special services and then in highly segregated settings. The rest are treated as slow learners and tracked into low income vocational programs. Students with emotional behavior issues are again declared socially maladjusted and if they are luckly provided with some talk therapy by a social worker before they are expelled.

    The question you all may ask is how did I get from describing a situation where special ed is moving to greater levels of intergration with regular ed. to the situation of the 1960s. It happens because people like President William and the Mayor are looking for a cost effective fix for special ed., greater intergation for special education students while it does produce better outcomes for most students costs more if done appropriately. The reason is simple special ed. services have to be spread over more classrooms hence to provide these services more special ed. teachers are needed.

    Regular ed. teachers can not make up the difference even with all the differential instruction training in the world because they are faced with teaching a curriculum that targets students with projected learning rates based on the Bell curve. NCLB puts even greater pressure on regular ed teachers to keep up the pace. Special ed. students are off that curve, hence even with differential instruction these students fall off pace and the regular ed. teacher must abandon them to one degree or another depending on their individual instructional skills for the sake of the whole classroom. Only an additional special ed. teacher can make this work for students with disabilities.

    What boards of ed want is not to pay out more, but less for students with disabilities.

    This is the basic problem for special ed. directors like Rene and others in our nation.

    I apologize for this long post, but I could not say what needed to be said in a more brief manner.

    Rod Estvan

    Access Living of Metro Chicago

  • Special Education is going back to the dark ages. Students are sitting in classrooms where they cannot do the work without any support and then they are punished when they act out. Teachers try to get students tested and instead they are put in problem solving with no real plan in place for a full year and then the next year teacher is left to start all over again!!!! Two or three years of this and the students fall further and further behind. It's frustrating for the teachers, the parents and for the students themselves.

    Based upon my experiences, I would say for every student who gets the needed help, at least three are left to struggle on their own.

    Somehow the cycle has to end and that's not going to happen without more resources both in terms of money and personnel.

    I would like to know other people's experiences with how long it takes from inital referral from a parent or teacher until something happens.

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