Unmet needs of Chicago Public School Students with Special Needs
By: Blake Berry Insufficient funding is a critical issue among many U.S public school systems including the Chicago Public Schools. The Chicago Public School (CPS) System “has only 66% of the funding it needs to adequately serve the more than 355,000 students in its schools every day” (The Chicago Public Education Fund, 2019). This lack of funding affects the majority of CPS schools, making it impossible for the administration to provide resources that are essential to their student’s learning experience, including elective courses and extracurricular programs such as sports, arts, and music opportunities, and academic clubs. Special education students are often overlooked when it comes to discussions of allocating what little funding CPS offers, despite being a student population with critical needs. As a result, these students are denied access to fundamental educational resources they are entitled to. Jenesse Adames, a senior at Whitney M. Young Magnet High school, the high school with the largest population of deaf and hard of hearing students in the district, details her experience as one of the few hard-or-hearing students in her classes. “It’s very isolating, being the only one in the class who can’t speak. When the interpreter is absent, it’s hard to communicate with the teacher and to learn the lesson.” CPS’s shortage of interpreters and substitutes is an issue that affects thousands of students’ learning experiences. Every student should have equal access to quality education. “CPS continues to fail to meet the needs of too many kids in its special education program, and that’s nothing new. It is a failure that dates back decades. 60 employees in the CPS special education department have left in the last two years” (Chicago Sun-Times, 2021). Atrise Kelley, Director of Diverse Learners at Whitney Young speaks about what the district can do to improve the number of support students with special needs receive. “The district could do better at placing students in this type of environment,” she says. By this type of environment, she is talking about schools like Whitney Young that have programs and staff dedicated to providing for students who need extra care. The research cited above and expert interviews indicate that more needs to be done to help students with special needs. What can other concerned Chicago Public School students do? Consider expressing your concerns during the Chicago Board of Education’s monthly board meetings at the CPS loop office.