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Campaign: Special Education

Take Action: Remote Learning Guidance Special Ed Mandates

Chicago Public Schools is asking special educators, case managers and clinicians to do an impossible task. With the recently shared “ODLSS Remote Learning Guidance” which was promulgated without CTU agreement, CPS is asking our educators to write Remote Learning Plans for over 50,000 students with Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) and 504 plans. With five weeks left in the school year, during a worldwide pandemic, this is a physical impossibility. Moreover, educators will have to choose between providing actual services to special needs students during this health crisis, or scheduling unnecessary meetings and completing redundant paperwork. Special educators, Case Managers, Itinerant Teachers and Clinicians already have huge caseloads, as well as scheduled annual and three-year IEP meetings, and are already working long hours to meet their students’ diverse needs during this crisis. CPS’ unconscionable years of underfunding in the Office of Diverse Learner Services (ODLSS), which necessitated the State of Illinois to step in to oversee Special education in CPS, is the real problem, as there are still shortages of over 300 special education teachers and more in the ranks of clinicians and case managers.

Make Your Voice Heard

Fill in your information to start writing a letter to State Superintendent of Education Carmen Ayala, to Chicago Board of Education President Miguel Del Valle and to CPS CEO Janice Jackson telling them to retract excessive and impossible demands in their Remote Learning Guidance.

Speak Out on Social Media

We’re asking members to tell your special education story in a brief video. Let the world know how CPS’s excessive paperwork, unclear guidelines and/or lack of support are interfering with your ability to provide the services your students with special needs deserve. Use the hashtag:


Resources for Educators
Language for Letter to Parents
Dear CPS Parent:

Last week Chicago Public Schools issued guidance on special education remote learning that is harmful to special education students and unworkable for case managers, special education teachers and parents. CPS has instructed case managers, Special Education Teachers, Itinerant Teachers, Clinicians and parents to develop individual remote learning plans for all students with IEPs. These plans are to be developed in individual meetings planned in the next nine weeks. That’s 50,000 plus meetings before the end of the school year!

In a district as large as CPS these individual remote learning plan meetings will overburden case managers, special education teachers, clinicians, and itinerant teachers and steal precious time that should be used for instruction with students and consulting with parents about remote learning questions. It also insists on parents being pulled away from their families for another meeting during a pandemic that already has parents scrambling to find time for everyday life. In addition, CPS now states that parents may opt their student out of a remote learning plan with no consequence.

What can we do together to pushback on this misinformed guidance from CPS?

  • Contact CPS and ISBE and demand that CPS rescind the requirement that all IEPs and 504 plans be written as individual remote learning plans. Teachers are already using IEPs and 504 plans to inform instruction for their students. An additional meeting is not required. You can send a message at www.ctulocal1.org/special.
  • Ask CPS to allow the current IEP to be the remote learning plan or a remote learning plan be added during already scheduled IEP annual review meetings so as not to add additional meetings in the short time we have remaining in the school year.
  • Advocate that CPS immediately consult with case managers, special education teachers, itinerant teachers, clinicians and the Chicago Teachers Union to develop a workable plan for remote learning for special education students going forward.

Together, we can work toward the kind of remote learning environment that your child deserves and that all our students with special needs deserve.


Language for PPC Letter to Administration in Support of IEP Team
On behalf of the PPC of ___________ School, we write to express our support for our IEP team.

ODLSS has released its new Remote Learning Guidance, which requires our educators to write a separate, additional Remote Learning Plan for every student with an IEP or 504 plan. Due to the work associated with setting up so multiple RLP plans, and the time this will take away from both direct student services and previously scheduled IEP and 504 meetings, it will be virtually impossible for special educators to schedule all of these RLP meetings. Additionally educators have their own personal and family obligations in connection with the COVID-19 pandemic.

This directive also conflicts with the Remote Learning Agreement terms agreed to between CPS and CTU. We request that school administration provide the support necessary to complete these meetings, either through the assignment of additional special education staff and/or rescheduling the meetings to another time that complies with the terms of the Remote Learning Agreement between CPS and CTU. Alternatively, we request that the current IEP be the Remote Learning plan for students, or a plan be added to the IEP during any already scheduled IEP meetings.

(Signed by)
PPC members
Special Educators
Case Manager

Language for Special Educator to Respond to Unreasonable IEP Request by Principal
I am in receipt of your request to schedule an IEP meeting on [date and time]. Conducting the meeting at that time conflicts with the Remote Learning Agreement terms agreed to between CPS and CTU. It will be impossible for me to participate in this meeting due to personal and family obligations in connection with the COVID-19 pandemic, and my obligations to complete my other job duties. I am requesting that the school administration provide the support necessary to complete this meeting, either through the assignment of additional special education staff and/or rescheduling the meeting to another time that complies with the terms of the Remote Learning Plan.
Guiding Questions for Parent Conversations in Remote Learning Planning
Check on the emotional well-being of the family
Possible questions:
  • How are you and your family doing?
  • Are there any extra supports the school could help put you in touch with?
  • How has your family been impacted by the pandemic so far?
Home factors
Possible questions:
  • Do you have access to the internet and enough technology to do remote learning?
  • How many members of the family need access to your devices?
  • Do you have a quiet place in the home for your child to work?
  • Do you also work from home or have other needs such as childcare or caring for an elderly family member?
  • Are there other children in the home who are also engaging in remote learning?
Distance-learning check-in
Possible questions:
  • How has distance learning been working for you and your family so far?
  • What have been the greatest successes and challenges so far?
  • What concerns do you have?
  • Are there any barriers to continuing remote learning going forward?
Developing the Plan
Possible questions:
  • How much support does your child need to complete remote learning activities?
  • Which types of activities (live whole class lessons, small groups lessons, pre-recorded lessons, online programs, pencil and paper work, creative activities) do you think are most beneficial for your child? Which are the hardest?
  • How much time can you or other family members reasonably spend working directly with your child during the day?
  • Are there any accommodations (i.e. checklists for organization, individualized schedules, timers, Google calendar alerts, etc) that would benefit your child?
  • How can the paraprofessional (where applicable) best support your child during remote learning?
  • How much time daily/weekly do you feel should be spent on supporting general education work, practicing IEP benchmarks/goals, and receiving services from related service providers (if applicable)?
  • What should co-teaching look like for remote learning?

Ongoing Staffing Issues

Sun-Times front page with headline about CPS nursing shortage. Click link to read article.In May 2018, after a months-long investigation, the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) found that CPS has systemically violated special education laws over the last two years. ISBE appointed a monitor to oversee reforms that should have started this school year. But advocates continue to hear that problems with special education service persist. At the same time, CTU certified school nurses have reported a chronic crisis in staffing for the health care needs of our students — reports that have begun breaking in local news outlets, including Channel 7 and the Sun-Times.

The CTU has worked closely over the last three years with a committed group of advocates to demand better for our students. Now, CPS has been forced to release more funds for special education for schools throughout the city. Use the information below to advocate for your principal to claim and properly use the funds CPS has been forced to allot.

Using our contract for SPED workload reduction funding and usage: Article 45-4.7

Per Article 21-13 of our contract, the CTU and CPS are continuing to negotiate over the details and procedures for implementing a Workload Plan for Special Educators to help alleviate the burden of paperwork, special education job duties and caseloads. To date, we’ve only come to agreement over the procedure for dispersing funds to relieve special education workload issues in schools (Article 45-4.7). Click here to download an Excel spreadsheet of the allocation made in 2019-20 to each school. Special education staff – including special education teachers, clinicians and case managers – should meet to determine the best use of funds within each school. The full procedure is outlined below. CPS has issued a memo to principals regarding the allocations, which you may find useful, as well.

Suggested Uses of Funds

Special education staffs can choose to use the funds received as they see fit as long as the plan helps to decrease the workload of special education teachers and clinicians and is developed through the procedure below. Some suggestions for fund use include but are not limited to:

  • Substitute teacher coverage for a day to free up teachers to work on special education paperwork and duties (i.e. IEP reports, ESY, scheduling, completing assessments, etc.)
  • Substitute teacher coverage for classes so teachers can do evaluations, surveys or interviews with students in preparation for an IEP meeting.
  • Overtime for teachers to complete special education paperwork after school at their regular rate of pay or pay to conduct after school assessments.

Please stay in touch with CTU about this matter. Share your best ideas with CTU and colleagues at other schools. These funds are to help relieve the workload at the local level so do what works best for your school’s special education staff.

Procedure for Determining the Usage of Funds

Workload funds will be allocated to schools on per special education pupil basis. Special education pupil means any pupil with an IEP or a 504 plan. To obtain the per pupil amount, $2,500,000 per year will be divided by the total number of CPS students with IEPs or 504 plans.

Schools shall determine how workload funds are to be used as follows:

  • The special education teachers, clinical staff and the principal shall develop a plan for use of the funds to decrease the workload of special education teachers and clinicians. The plan must provide relieve to special education teachers and clinician workloads.
  • The special education teachers, case managers, clinicians and principal shall consult with and seek input from the PPLC on a plan for use of the funds.
  • In the event an agreement cannot be reached among special education teachers/clinicians or between teachers and the principal, the choices shall be put to a secret ballot vote by special education teachers and clinicians only, which shall be conducted in the same manner as a contract waiver vote (i.e., conducted by the Union delegate and certified by the delegate and principal). Nothing shall prohibit the school from having more than two choices and conducting run-off votes in the event a majority has not voted for one choice. The funds shall be expended in accordance with the choice of a majority of special education teachers and clinicians voting.

If it becomes necessary to have a vote to determine use of funds, please contact the Chicago Teachers Union and speak to your CTU Field Representative to discuss the voting.

General CTU Announcement

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Administrative Transfer Window

Teachers will be able to transfer schools for Fall 2020 without principal permission between April 8, 2020 and May 23, 2020.

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