New Brunswick

AIMS says students with learning disabilities need financial help

The Atlantic Institute for Market Studies is calling on the New Brunswick government to adopt a tuition support program similar to the one offered to students with learning disabilities in Nova Scotia, according to a new report.

Study calls on N.B. to follow the lead of N.S. and provide tuition support for private schools

The Atlantic Institute for Market Studies is calling on the New Brunswick government to adopt a tuition support program similar to the one offered to students with learning disabilities in Nova Scotia, according to a new report.

Paul Bennett, the author of the report and the director of Schoolhouse Consulting, says there is an education "gap" in New Brunswick for students who are struggling.

He suggests that gap could be effectively bridged by private schools that specialize in teaching students with learning disabilities.
A report by the AIMS, released at Riverbend Community School in Moncton, is calling for tuition support for students with learning disabilities who attend private schools. (Vanessa Blanch/CBC)

The problem, he says, is that many families are unable to afford to pay for a private education.

"Extending similar tuition support would certainly help broaden accessibility in New Brunswick, a province where an estimated 1,000 children suffer from these challenges," said Bennett.

A tuition support program in Nova Scotia offers up to $7,900 for up to four years to students who have been diagnosed with a learning disability, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or an autism spectrum disorder and who attend a private school.

"It not only helps to reduce potential long-term social and economic costs," Bennett said.

Or you don't do anything about it...they can't read, they can't do math, that's the reality of it and here's what happens — they become members of our community on social assistance, they are in jail or they are on disability with severe mental health problems.- Rebecca Bulmer, Riverbend Community School

AIMS president and CEO, Marco Navarro-Genie, calls the study thought provoking. "In Nova Scotia the tuition support program is already helping to produce happier families and more productive young citizens."

"I believe it would serve New Brunswick well to look closely at this study and learn from the positive experience in Nova Scotia."

In Moncton, Riverbend Community School is a private day school that offers a specialized education for nine students with learning disabilities at a cost of $11,500 per year.

Riverbend school director Rebecca Bulmer has been lobbying the New Brunswick Department of Education for a tuition support program and is part of the AIMS study.

She says many families are unable to afford a specialized education for their children without support. 

"If we can't provide these kids the education they need now, all that untapped potential will be lost within our communities and it's real, and it's 15 to 20 per cent of our students and letting them go is not doing our duty as a community," Bulmer said in an interview on Information Morning Moncton on Wednesday.

"Opening that up to more families provides a stronger New Brunswick."

Pay now or pay later

Bulmer is hoping the New Brunswick government will come to the conclusion that it makes financial sense to invest in a tuition support program, as politicians in Nova Scotia have.

"If you do, you're making an investment educating them so they reach their learning potential and become thriving, capable, contributors to our society — that means they become lovely taxpayers with jobs."
Rebecca Bulmer says private schools such as Riverbend want to work with the public school system to fill in learning gaps so students can return to the public system. (CBC)

"Or you don't do anything about it, they can't discover their potential, they can't read, they can't do math, that's the reality of it and here's what happens — they become members of our community on social assistance, they are in jail or they are on disability with severe mental health problems."

Bulmer says private schools like hers want to work with public schools, helping to fill in gaps for the 80 to 100 students in the Moncton area alone who need the specialized help.

"[Private schools] are not an alternative to the public school, it's an alliance. It's filling in those gaps that they just couldn't meet in the system as it exists now and transitioning them back into school."

In Nova Scotia, the provincial government spends $2.5 million a year to cover most of the tuition costs for approximately 225 students to attend three designated special education private schools in the province.

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