A Victory for Parent Empowerment in Response to ISBE Public Inquiry Into CPS Special Education

News (Monday, August 27, 2018)

In a victory for Chicago Public Schools Special Education, Governor Rauner signed SB 454, a bill that empowers parents as part of their children’s special education process and blocks harmful policies, into law last week.

SB 454, sponsored by Rep. Fred Crespo, of Streamwood, addresses recurring obstacles uncovered during a five-month probe into the CPS Special Education program that prevent the proper administration of Special Education services to students. Legal Council worked with Rep. Crespo and other advocate groups to conceive and draft the bill in the wake of an historic Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) investigation that found that CPS systematically delayed and denied services to students, which is a violation of federal law. Other proponents of the bill include Access Living, Raise Your Hand, Equip for Equality, and Parents 4 Teachers.

This law bans CPS from engaging in practices known colloquially as “locks and blocks” in CPS internal systems; practices that have been found to prevent teachers and others from implementing services that special education students need. Additionally, this law requires CPS to provide parents an advance copy of all the same materials, data, and evaluation the school staff will be using to determine services. This will provide clarity to parents regarding the services that their children are to receive which, in turn, will hold CPS more responsible for its administration of services.

“This legislation gives CPS parents the timely information they need in order to make sure CPS cannot engage in the systemic, illegal delay and denial of services that has harmed so many of our diverse learners during the last two years,” Amy Zimmerman, of Legal Council for Health Justice, explained.

Key provisions of SB 454 (now Public Act 100-0993) provide transparency about the IEP process. Parents will now be able to walk into a meeting about their child possessing the same information as the school team members. Other protections include:

  • Parents must be told 10 days before the IEP meeting what services require data collection and whether or not the school has started collecting any data. ISBE found that CPS was using a lack of data as an excuse for delaying and, in some cases, denying services.
  • Five days before the meeting, parents must receive copies of all draft documents including evaluations, data, and proposed student goals.
  • If the district fails within 10 days to implement a service that the team deemed necessary for that child, parents must be notified.
  • The “locks and blocks” in the district’s IEP system that have prevented IEP teams from implementing decisions they believe are necessary are now banned.
  • CPS, as well as all other districts in the state, must now notify parents in writing at every IEP meeting that the IEP team must, according to federal law, consider whether the child requires Assistive Technology (AT), such as audio books and speech-to-text software,  in order to receive a Free, Appropriate Public Education. The district must also provide parents with contact information for the Illinois’ AT program.

The bill took effect August 20, 2018.

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