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IFT Legislative Director Cynthia Riseman’s Remarks to the ISBE on Special Education Class Sizes

02/20/2013

Superintendent Koch and Members of the Board, thank you for the opportunity to speak today. I’m Cynthia Riseman with the Illinois Federation of Teachers and I’d like to speak to the proposed amendments to Part 226 of the Illinois Administrative Code.

  1. As you are aware, House Bill 189 pulled out speech-only students from the 226.730 rule requirements, as a direct result of the state’s education stakeholder Blue Ribbon Committee to address unfunded mandates. The conversation amongst the stakeholders at the time was explicit that it wasn’t feasible to go beyond this specific change to 226.730 or to go so far as to eliminate the requirements of 226.730.
  2. Even though Illinois is in a financial crisis, our focus should be on providing the best possible services to all students and making decisions that are educationally sound. Eliminating the requirements of 226.730 are not educationally sound and represent cuts at the expense of kids’ education.
  3. This administrative change begs unintended consequences of eliminating the requirements of 226.730, particularly increased class sizes for both general education and special education. Districts are already unfortunately looking to raised class sizes as a way to effectuate cost savings as a result of prorated General State Aid and potentially declining tax revenues. Without these class size requirements, districts in desperate financial straits will see this change as a route to further cost savings at the expense of teaching, learning and student outcomes.
  4. Illinois districts, schools and teachers already face implementation of multiple, significant education reforms that they are struggling to address, including the demands of transitioning to the Common Core State Standards, PARCC assessments and the Performance Evaluation Reform Act. Given the concerns about unintended consequences, it doesn’t make sense to lift these state requirements at this time.
  5. I would add that, like ISAC, our members have concerns with disabled students being provided the full range of supports and accommodations within the LRE if these provisions are removed. Likewise, our members are concerned about their ability to provide the level and intensity of instruction to all of their students without these parameters the state has established - gen Ed and those with disabilities. Removing 226.730 and 226.731 significantly increases the concern that supports, instruction and accommodations for all students will be compromised. Too often, with these class size provisions in place now, our members share with us the pressures they sometimes face in IEP meetings where district resource scarcity comes into play with student needs as described in the IEP; they fear this pressure increasing if these provisions were to be removed. The IFT and our members believe in providing student with disabilities access to the most effective and appropriate education within the least restrictive environment, but we do not believe removing these two sections of 226 will accomplish that goal, but rather place teachers in a position where they can't provide all necessary services.
Chicago Teachers Union