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Chicago Plans New Round of Special Education Staff Cuts

This summer, Chicago Public Schools cut about 500 special education teachers and aides from its payroll—saving about $42 million, it said—and recently announced that it plans to make additional cuts of about $12 million.

The cuts, which would amount to 70 teachers and aides, would be the first time the district has reduced special education staffing after the start of the school year. A school spokeswoman said the cuts were necessary because of an enrollment drop at the 400,000-student district, which is currently facing a $480 million budget gap.

WBEZ Radio reported that Chicago principals were given until Tuesday to file appeals of staff reductions at their individual schools, but the district pushed the deadline to Nov. 2 after fielding complaints. 

School administrators told local news organizations that any further cuts would damage their ability to provide a free, appropriate public education to their students with disabilities. 

"It's just simply not possible to cut my staff with the inclusion model that we're using and cover the needs of our kids," Hamilton Elementary principal James Gray told WBEZ. "Without our five teachers, we would be out of compliance."

A report released Tuesday from the district's teachers' union says that special education in Chicago is in "crisis."

"Instead of rhetoric about autonomy, the district needs to fund special education sufficiently so that the professional staff at the schools that work with the students, and the [individualized education program] team empowered by federal law, determine what and where the resources will be," the report said.  

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