Special-ed quota criticized
State says Chicago schools' testing restrictions violate federal law
By Tracy Dell'Angela and Bonnie Miller Rubin, Tribune staff reporters
Published June 22, 2005
Chicago Public Schools has violated federal law by restricting how many students could be referred for special education services at specific schools, state education officials allege.
Teachers, specialists and advocates have long complained of an illegal quota system. They say the city school system tightly controls access to services, denying struggling children extra help because of money constraints.
With us today are Tracy Triplicate form the Chicago Board of Education, and LaToya Watson-Mohammad, representing the Chicago Teachers' Union*.
TT:First of all, there's no quota. But, look - for a long time we have had teachers just dumping kids in Special Ed so they don't have to deal with them. Have you heard of the famous study in which it was demonstrated that teachers were classifying Latino kids as mentally retarded because they didn't speak English? Rather than helping them learn the language, they were put in Special Ed classes in which they weren't taught anything at all. The same thing has happened here. If a child has a disability, then by all means put the child in a special program. But lots of kids don't do well because they have behavioral issues, or have trouble at home, or are in fear for their lives from gangs, or have other emotional issues that keep them from learning. Ths solution is not to stick them in Special Ed. The solution is to help them and teach them.
LWM: There is a quota system. And in some of our neighborhoods, there are a lot of disabled children. We have kids who can't read, who don't learn, who aren't retaining anything and it's disruptive to keep them in class. It hurts the other children. We already have 30 kids in a class some places, and we can't afford to deal with kids who aren't going to learn. What would you do with a sixth grader who can't read?
TT: Have you tried teaching them how? That is in your job description, you know.
LWM: Let me check - hey! Low blow! That's not the point, and you know it. You just don't want to pay to educate these kids! You get a fixed special ed grant from the Feds no matter how many kids are in the program! You're just gaming the system.
TT: No, you're gaming the system. You know these special ed kids don't count against you test scores, so you want to exempt everyone it would be difficult to teach.
LWM: You created these incentives! You want to shut our school down over some stupid test.
TT: You're a lazy ,incompetant blockhead. I wish it was easier to fire you.
LWM: Well, you're a bloodless fascist troll.
TT: At least my kid goes to a real school!
LBM: Think you're too good for us, you pasty-faced bitch!
TT: Fuck you.
LBM: Fuck you!
Well, I guess that clears that up! Join us next time on Point-Counterpoint, when we discuss the East Village Landmark District!
*note - not their real names. nobody you know. composite characters. don't sue me, I don't have any money.