CPS recently announced that it has expanded its “All Means All” pilot program to 102 schools. Under the “All Means All” program, special education student funding is no longer based on enrollment and individual student need. Instead, IEP services will be driven by the amount of money left in a school’s budget.
Given the status of CPS’s budget, one can imagine how this will end for our most disabled students in Chicago. For 102 schools, each with limited budgets, a principal will determine what services need to be provided to each special education student. The “All Means All” program creates a conflict of interest between school administrators, preserving limited resources, and special education students, requiring supports and services that come with a price tag.
If there is any question as to who will be the winners and losers in this conflict, one only needs to follow the money, or more accurately the financial bonuses for school adminsitrators. According to a recent WBEZ report, “All Means All” includes a financial bonus for schools that move kids into mainstream classrooms (this is another way to describe cutting services and supports for special education students) or out of special education entirely. We have seen such policies in effect before. Students will be denied entry into special education in order to keep a school’s numbers down, exited before they acquire necessary skills to be successful in society, and while in special education, students’ educational resources will be limited by budgetary constraints.
Without question, there are benefits when special education students are educated within a mainstream setting. However, that process should be dictated by student need and not limited budgets and financial bonuses to administrators.