Chicago Public Schools — the nation’s third largest school system — must turn over control of nearly every aspect of its special education program to the state, the Illinois State Board of Education said Wednesday. The board voted to appoint a monitor who will have final say on all policies and budget plans related to special education.
It’s a major blow to CPS’ autonomy and a rare and aggressive move by the state. CPS spends $900 million, or more than 16 percent of its total budget, on special education annually to serve more than 52,000 children with a broad range of special needs, including learning issues and behavioral and physical disabilities.
The board voted to appoint the monitor for at least three years and 40 other “corrective actions” for CPS after accepting the findings of a state investigation that found CPS had violated federal special education laws when it made sweeping changes to its program for disabled students two years ago.
The investigation found “systemic problems” with special education in CPS that “delayed and denied” services to children. That inquiry was prompted by complaints from advocates and a WBEZ report that mirrored the state’s findings.