I am asking for the help of the people. I am asking for you to join me in my fight. I am asking you to help Re-unite Taylor with her Angel, Etta McChristian and tell Chicago Public Schools not to balance their budgets on the backs of special needs children. I am asking that you scream out to the powers that be to correct this act of impudence against my child and other children with disabilities. I am asking you to ask the Mayor of Chicago, Rahm Emanuel to ensure quality education for all Chicago Public Schools students including those with disabilities. I am asking Arne Duncan, the head of the US Department of Education to take a very detailed look at how funds are distributed for Special Education in Chicago Public Schools.
My Daughter, Taylor is a 7th grade student with an Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) at Walter Q. Gresham Elementary school in Chicago. Taylor's IEP has required her to have paraprofessional support throughout the day for the past 5 years. Taylor had a paraprofessional who had been trained to specifically work with children with Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD). That paraprofessional, Ms. McChristian, was terminated by the Chicago Public School district at the end of the 2010-2011 school year. The Chicago Public School district claimed it was due to budgetary constraints. However my child was still entitled to paraprofessional support in her IEP. The paraprofessional also had more seniority than the other paraprofessionals and staff members that were retained. Instead, the school's principal choose to keep other staff members-- including paying for a Bilingual - Parent Advocate at $43,000 per year in a school that is 100% African-American. I was appalled that my child would go without a trained paraprofessional so that the school could keep this Bilingual - Parent Advocate who acts as a security guard. Chicago Public Schools says they are short on money, but they waste money for positions like this instead of providing essential services to the students. Paraprofessionals are paid about $32,000 per year and are listed as Teacher Assistants according to Chicago Public Schools website. The principal and the school district choose to cut this position to keep a glorified security guard at $43,000 per year. The Teacher Assistant is a necessary position and a Bilingual Parent Advocate is not at a school with no ESL children.
My child has now been stuck with a untrained paraprofessional (Teacher Assistant) who has been given a 6-hour training course to learn about Autistic Spectrum Disorders (ASD) . My child's previous paraprofessional, Ms. McChristian was required to take a 9-month long training course that provided certification. The Chicago Public School District and the Illinois State Board of Education claims that the 6-hour training course was sufficient training. I don't think it is and it shows.
Taylor has gone from a happy child who loved school to a child who hates to be there. Parents of children with ASD know that our kids have unique needs that must be accommodated in order for them to access the curriculum in the Least Restrictive Environment. Taylor's previous paraprofessional knew how and what environments and situations would trigger a meltdown. She was aware of Taylor's needs and sensory issues related to noise or physical touch. The new paraprofessional didn't know to remove my child from very loud and noisy environments. The new paraprofessioanl can not even follow Taylor's transition plan that allows her to leave 5 minutes early to avoid any accidental physical contact with other children rushing out of the school.
The Chicago Public School district has played a money game with my child's education and I think it warrants a thorough investigation by the United States Department of Education.
So please join me in my fight to reunite Taylor and Ms. McChristian and to hold Chicago Public Schools accountable on how the deliver and provide education and services to children with disabilities.