British Columbia

Parents worry extra $50M funding for B.C. schools will do little for special needs students

Parents applaud the $50M newly earmarked to help special need students, but say a comprehensive plan is still needed to rectify the lack of long-term support.

Parents call for comprehensive plan to rectify special needs education funding shortfalls

Many special needs students in B.C. don't have access to education assistants, says spokesperson Tracey Humphreys of the B.C. Parents of Special Needs Children. (Tom Woodward/Flickr Creative Commons)

Mission's Chantelle Morvay-Adams says Grade 4 has been tough for her son.

Through his first five years in public school, he was diagnosed with several learning disabilities.

He also doesn't have the support of an educational assistant — support she says he desperately needs since his teacher has to watch over the other 30 students in the class.

"Right now, as it stands, my son doesn't want to go to school anymore," said Morvay-Adams. "He's completely refused to go."

Morvay-Adams considered home-schooling her son. But she's hopeful the $50 million headed to B.C.'s public schools following a landmark deal between the B.C. Teachers' Federation and the provincial government might finally get him the support he needs.

"Will this money really go to some great specialized teachers? I really hope so ... I'm really crossing my fingers."

Hoping for the best

Circumstances like Morvay-Adams' are widespread says Tracy Humphreys of B.C. Parents of Special Needs Children.

"In the short term, this may actually do harm to students with special needs," Humphreys told host Gloria Macarenko on CBC's B.C. Almanac. "Throwing money at a problem doesn't necessarily fix it."

According to the ministry's announcement, the dollars will go toward adding 1,000 teaching positions across the province, which could include special education teachers. But with nearly 1,600 schools in the province, Humphreys says the funding doesn't scratch the root of the issue.

"The [$50 million] doesn't deal with the frontline issues for special needs students. The lack of educational assistant time and training is not covered in any way by this funding ... and that's something that's dearly needed."

Psychologists and special needs teachers are in demand across all B.C. schools, and many parents wait years before their child gets a psychological assessment to determine if they qualify for assistance.

"I really feel there needs to be a more comprehensive plan in place to fix the system," she said. 

The next steps

The provincial government and the BCTF will enter negotiations next week to determine how funding will be distributed in the years going forward.

Education Minister Mike Bernier will negotiate with the BCTF to determine how to restore class sizes back to 2002 levels. (Frederic Janvier Gagnon/CBC)

And, the Ministry of Education says a broader plan is on the horizon.

"This is a first step ... but it will be part of a bigger package going forward," ministry spokesman Jason Keenan told CBC News.

He says it's too early to tell how funding will be allocated, but the BCTF claims supports for students with special needs and manageable class sizes is a priority.

With files from CBC's B.C. Almanac

To listen to the full interview, click on the audio labelled: Parents worry new school funding will do little for special needs students