The N.W.T. government is shifting $1.2 million into early childhood education programs, taking it away from inclusive schooling, which provides funding for students with disabilities.

Yellowknife Catholic Schools says it will receive $85,000 less next year for its inclusive schooling programs.

Superintendent Claudia Parker said funding for inclusive schooling has gone to extra staff for students with special needs, training for teachers and physical supports to help students learn. She said it has helped teachers adapt curriculum for students with learning and physical challenges.

Parker said the board has decided not to scale back any inclusive schooling programming but had to find other ways to pay for teachers’ aides and equipment.

The board has cancelled a scheduled review of its math program and scaled back money for an educational psychologist.

"Children in Grade 1 have 12 years left [of school]. We need to meet their needs and have them ready for graduation just as much as the children who are one year of age," said Gerda Hazenberg, vice chair of the Yellowknife Catholic school board. 

Hazenberg said it doesn't make sense to cut education funding to pay for early childhood programs because both are needed.

"We're having children coming into our school with a very low functioning language ability. They're delayed before they start kindergarten. The problem we have with it is our resources are stretched thin meeting the needs of all students," Hazenberg said.

The N.W.T. Department of Education, Culture and Employment has not responded to requests from CBC for information on inclusive schooling. Minister Jackson Lafferty declined requests for an interview.

With files from the CBC's Elizabeth McMillan