The Manitoba government is increasing funding for special needs students and streamlining the process for students to get the supports they need.

The increase of $1.7 million will bring the total funding for special needs students to $75.5 million, said Education Minister James Allum, who made the announcement on Thursday.

One of the changes — which follow recommendations made by a task force on special needs education — is the elimination of applications, which will give special needs teachers and clinicians more time to focus on the classroom, not paperwork, he said.

"We want students with special needs to get the supports they need without having to make their parents and educators go through a lengthy and stressful application process," Allum said.

"I want to personally thank the parents, advocates and teachers who served on this task force for their hard work that will result in a new funding model that will better help students."

'We want students with special needs to get the supports they need without having to make their parents and educators go through a lengthy and stressful application process.' - James Allum

The Louis Riel School Division will pilot a new process for allocating special needs resources in some of its schools starting in fall 2016, working in collaboration with the province, the Manitoba Teachers' Society and the Louis Riel Teachers' Association.

Other divisions could voluntarily implement the new funding model the following year, with full implementation in place by fall 2018, Allum said, adding the lessons learned from the Louis Riel pilot will help other school divisions make a smoother transition to the new approach.

"This initiative will eliminate the current time-consuming, deficit-focused and student-specific application process, and free up time for our staff to work with our kids, which is what they do best," said Duane Brothers, superintendent of the Louis Riel School Division.

Allum also announced $10 million in new capital supports for schools to build life-skills classrooms for students with special needs and to improve accessibility in schools.

"By investing in programming and making sure schools have the resources and facilities they need, students with special needs will have more supports than ever," he said.