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November 2019 E-Newsletter 


This E-newsletter is devoted to sharing information about special education, disability rights, mental health and human services law, policy and research that is of importance to people with disabilities, their families, and the professionals that work with them.

Information includes political issues, important research, legal developments, and information based on our experiences that we hope will help you personally in your individual and professional efforts.   It also provides updates and news about our firm and its activities.  We hope you find it helpful and welcome your comments and suggestions.  
                                                                   -Matt Cohen
11-day Chicago teachers strike produces staffing gains, class size protections

A tentative agreement in the 11-day Chicago teachers strike calls for a nurse and social worker in every school by the end of the five-year agreement, enforceable class size limits, and additional staffing for special ed and students experiencing homelessness, resources teachers and advocates have been fighting to win for years.
The Chicago Teachers Union's (CTU) 700-member governing body approved the deal but it still needs to be ratified by the union's roughly 25,000 members. Teachers and students returned to school Nov. 1. READ MORE

Teachers strike hard on special needs students, but worth the pain

The 11-day strike by Chicago teachers was hard on special needs students, who often thrive on routine and the daily care they receive at school. But, many parents hope the pain will have been worth it since the new contract includes a number of staffing improvements, especially for the district's poorest schools.
During the strike, teachers emphasized the great disparities between schools serving low-income children of color and more affluent families. "The racial and economic disparity is there no matter what," said Matt Cohen, an attorney who focuses on disability rights. "But kids with disabilities and their families, it's like they're doubly disadvantaged." READ MORE

Union representing SECAs, other school staff sign new contract after strike

The union that represents Special Education Classroom Assistants (SECAs), bus aides and other school staff approved its contract a few days before Chicago teachers settled theirs. But members of SEIU Local 73 honored the picket lines through the end of the 11-day teachers strike. 

Under the agreement, new SECA hires, who are some of the lowest-paid workers in the district, will see a 40 percent wage hike and aides with more than 20 years experience will get a 38 percent pay increase. This is good news for these vital school staff.  READ MORE

Valuable post-secondary programs at risk from potential federal budget cuts

There are 274 post-secondary transition programs for students with cognitive disabilities across the country, like Aggie Elevated in Utah. The goal of the program is to prepare students for meaningful work and independent living. Without these programs, many students would be living at home working menial, low-wage jobs. But there aren't enough to meet the need and federal funding for some of them expires next year. READ MORE

Texas special ed students paid heavy price for service cutbacks, new study shows

In 2005, Texas adopted a plan to cut back services for students with disabilities, ordering districts to provide services to no more than 8.5 percent of students or face fines and penalties. Now, a new study finds that students who were denied services were less likely to graduate high school or enroll in college.
The researchers looked only at students who were receiving services before the cap was in place and identified those students who likely lost services. Texas officials estimated in 2018 that about 189,000 students who were not receiving special education services likely needed them.
The Texas story is eerily familiar to the cutbacks imposed in Chicago several years ago. Sadly, Chicagoans still do not know the exact extent of harm caused to students, but CPS estimates that, at a minimum, at least 12,000 of the almost 50,000 students eligible for special ed were adversely impacted by the policy changes. READ MORE

Lawsuit removes LSAT barriers for blind test takers and everyone else

After eight years and multiple court battles, a Michigan man has won an agreement from the agency that administers the Law School Admissions Test (LSAT) to remove a section of the test that is impossible for blind individuals to complete and, therefore, seriously diminishes their chances of being accepted to law school.
Although the test offers several accommodations including screen-reading software, braille exam form, and the use of a braille writer or braille graphics and figures, the "logic games" section requires applicants to draw a diagram to test analytical reasoning. The test agency says it will phase out the logic games section for all test takers over the next four years. READ MORE

New study finds racial achievement gaps closely tied to student discipline disparities

A new study finds that disparities between black and white student suspension rates and academic achievement are likely two sides of the same coin, with one predicting the other. The study, based on data from more than 2,000 school districts for the years 2011-2012 and 2013-2014, found that a 10 percentage point increase in the black-white discipline gap predicts a 17 percent larger than average achievement gap.
"If your district is suspending students of color at higher rates compared to white students, then your district likely is also failing to meet the academic needs of students of color," says one of the study's authors. "Likewise, if your district struggles to meet the academic needs of students of color relative to its white students, then it will likely have a racial (disparity in administration of) discipline problem too." READ MORE

Exposing the charter-to-prison pipeline for Black students

Charter schools bill themselves as better options for Black parents. But the arrest of two six-year old Black girls at a Florida charter school in September challenged that notion. 
After a public outcry, charges against the children were dropped. But the story illustrates a charter-to-prison pipeline similar to that faced by students of color in public schools.
And a 2016 study confirmed what the Florida case brought to light. In 2011-2012, suspension rates for Black students at 500 charters were at least 10 percent higher than for their white peers. READ MORE

Parents challenge deceptive, illegal new College Board parental survey and consent form

Parents are expressing concern about a new parental consent form approved by the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) for use along with administration of the SAT, PSAT and Advanced Placements exams sold by the College Board. 

The consent form doesn't provide parents enough information about the survey and how and with whom the data collected will be shared. Illinois Families for Public Education (IFPE) says the consent form is deceptive and illegal and the group is asking ISBE to take action. READ MORE

Elizabeth Warren comes out swinging with K-12 education platform

U.S. Senator and presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren released her K-12 education plan in October, calling for a ban on non-profit as well as for-profit charter schools, an end to private school tax vouchers and promising to boost education funding by hundreds of billions of dollars. She also has pledged to appoint a teacher to head the U.S. Department of Education. READ MORE

Lawsuit challenges school districts' refusal to pay for care and education of children in housing facility

A south suburban housing center providing care and education for children with mental and physical disabilities says local school districts aren't paying their bills. They have filed a lawsuit against four suburban school districts and CPS seeking payment for the care and education of the children. Without it, the center says it may have to shut its doors. READ MORE

Recent Firm Successes

  • Secured private day placement for student for two years and partial reimbursement of expenses.
  • Secured private placement and transportation for student with LD and ADHD for current school year, with partial reimbursement of prior year's expenses and agreement to provide 1-1 aide for one regular class selected by parents that student will attend in public school second semester.
  • Coached a parent to successfully advocate for placement at therapeutic day school.
  • Effectively advocated for increased scope and rigor to IEP goals with corresponding increase in service minutes.
  • Facilitated development of shared, data-driven plan to determine appropriate placement.
  • Obtained $60,000 in settlement to pay for reimbursement of parents' tuition costs for Fusion Academy for a 19 year-old with Specific Learning Disorder, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Social Anxiety Disorder, and ADHD.
  • Received reimbursement to parents and private program for outstanding costs owed by CPS and payment of attorneys' fees incurred pursuing reimbursement in federal court.
Upcoming presentations

RTI & LD - Getting Eligibility and Services
Matt Cohen
Matt Cohen & Associates
Tuesday, Nov. 12, 5:30 - 8:30 p.m.
155 N. Michigan Ave.
7th floor conference room
Chicago, IL 60601
MCA Advocacy Colloquium. Restricted to Colloquium Members. RSVP required to Tami Kuipers at by day before

Related Services Technology, Unusual Therapies and Intervention
Matt Cohen
Matt Cohen & Associates
Tuesday, Dec. 10, 5:30 - 8:30 p.m. (Date may change due to a hearing)
155 N. Michigan Avenue
7th floor conference room
Chicago, IL 60601
MCA Advocacy Colloquium. Restricted to Colloquium Members. RSVP required to Tami Kuipers at by day before
Panel Discussion on Rights and Services for Gifted Children
Matt Cohen
Midwest Academy for Gifted Education
Sunday, Dec. 15, noon - 1 p.m.
Chicago, IL 60642

The Role and Power of Independent Evaluations: How to Critically Evaluate and Use IEEs to Secure Appropriate Placements and Services
Matt Cohen, Brad Dembs, Elizabeth Hooper
COPAA 22nd Annual Conference
Sunday, March 8, 11:45 a.m. - 1:15 p.m
Hilton Baltimore Inner Harbor
401 W. Pratt St.
Baltimore, MD 21201
For conference information and details, visit

Brochures Available 
We offer several different brochures related 
to the following topics: 
  • IEPs and 504 Plans - Navigating the Maze
  • Tips for Obtaining Accommodations for the ACT, SAT and other Placement Exams
  • Obtaining an Independent Educational Evaluation
  • Tips for Obtaining Appropriate Services for Your Child With Autism
  • Classroom Observation
To request multiple copies for your clients, 
please call us at 866-787-9270.   
Matt Cohen is the founder of the Chicago law firm Matt Cohen & Associates LLC.  

The practice is concentrated in representation of children and families in special education and discipline disputes with public schools, di sability rights advocacy, including advocacy for accommodations in admissions and licensing tests and in colleges and graduate schools and legal assistance to mental health and human services professionals and the organizations they work for. 

For more information about Matt Cohen and the staff, please visit our  website.
If you have any questions, please contact his assistant, Tami Kuipers at 866-787-9270  or 

book cover

   A Guide to Special Education Advocacy -
  What Parents, Clinicians and Advocates Need to Know
   written by Matt Cohen
   published in 2009


    $20 plus $4.95 shipping 

    to order, call Tami at





The material in this enews has been prepared by Matt Cohen & staff for informational purposes only and should not be considered legal advice.  We assume no responsibility for the accuracy or timeliness of any information provided herein. Internet subscribers and online readers should not act upon this information without seeking professional counsel. This information is not intended to create, and receipt of it does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship. 


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