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Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Chicago Public School FY 2016 Budget analysis by Access Living on special education funding and students with disabilities

Chicago - Aug 24, 2015 – Access Living (Center for Independent Living) of Chicago announced the release of the FY 2016 Chicago Public Schools (CPS) Budget Review. In conjunction with the start of each school year, Access Living publishes a review of the CPS Budget, specifically as it relates to special education funding and students with disabilities. The publication reviews the CPS Budget, analyzes the impact on special education and students with disabilities, and makes a series of recommendations. The recommendations cover fiscal options, special education hiring staffing, and data at Charter Schools. The report is authored by Access Living’s Education Policy Analyst Rodney Estvan. On Wednesday, August 26, Estvan is scheduled to testify at the CPS Board Meeting, where he will speak about the Budget Review.
A significant portion of the FY 2016 Budget Review is devoted to the CPS fiscal problems. According to the report, “one has to go back to the fiscal crisis of CPS running from 1972 leading up to the district’s complete collapse in December 1979 to enter a period comparable to the present reality of CPS.”(p. 23) The Budget Review goes into detail on CPS financing because, “they are driving the cuts to special education.” (p. 3) The CPS FY 2016 Budget includes a $42.3 million cut in special education services. The Budget Review projects how those cuts break down at a number of schools.

Two examples include Beard Elementary, one of 11 CPS Specialty Schools, at which special education teaching staff will be cut by nearly 40% in FY 2016 while expecting a 5% enrollment increase. The Budget Review also mentions Vaughn, another Specialty School, which is slated for Special Education Staff cuts of 38%. In the report, Estvan details the CPS history of cutting then rehiring special education positions, sometimes later in the same year. Estvan notes that CPS cutting staff “will do nothing to improve the reading skills of students with disabilities.” Meanwhile, attempts to fill special education service gaps later in the year, “makes high quality recruitment extremely difficult.” (p. 4)
As of 2013, less than 50% of CPS schools were physically accessible. However, more than 100 CPS schools were made accessible between 2006 and 2013. Estvan writes in the Budget Review that “Historically, Access Living has been supportive of CPS efforts to make schools accessible.” But in FY 2016, the budget for district wide accommodations and accessibility requirement is only $150,000. “CPS has made a dramatic, and we believe short sighted, decision to largely end its efforts in this area,” Estvan writes.
Download the report here: 2015-FY2016-CPS-BudgetReview-Final

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