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Special education cuts get focus at CPS board meeting

The head of special education at Chicago Public Schools said schools rely too heavily on aides and aren’t scheduling staff who help students with special needs efficiently.

Markay Winston, the Chief of the Office of Diverse Learners and Support Services, said her office is trying to deliver special education services in a “fiscally responsible” manner. Since summer, the district has cut nearly 600 special education teachers and aides.

Winston said the cuts should not affect the ability to meet students’ individualized education plans, or IEPs, which are legally binding documents that outline what help an individual  child needs in order to learn.

Principals found out over the weekend that more special needs staff would be eliminated. CPS has never before cut special education staff after the first day of school. Officials said it was due to enrollment, but there was no correlation between enrollment declines and special education staffing cuts.

Those cuts came in addition to 500 positions that were eliminated over the summer.

Presenting at the Chicago Board of Education on Tuesday, Winston said that historically, only 5 percent of students with IEPs ever transition out of special education in CPS.

Board Vice President Jesse Ruiz asked Winston how many students with IEPs simply left the district.

Becky Vevea is an education reporter for WBEZ. Follow her @WBEZeducation.

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