New Brunswick

No plans for tuition help for kids with learning disabilities, says minister

Education Minister Dominic Cardy says the government won't help parents of children with learning disabilities afford private school.

Dominic Cardy says he would rather work on making sure public schools serve everybody

Dominic Cardy said there's no connection between government and private schools in the province.

Education Minister Dominic Cardy says the government won't help parents of children with learning disabilities afford private school.

He said the province is in a difficult financial situation, and a new tuition program wouldn't fit into the philosophy of fiscal restraint.

There is also no legislative mechanism to introduce such a program, since his department has no connection with private schools, Cardy told Information Morning Moncton. 

"There are no private schools that operate under the New Brunswick system, or have links with it."

The minister's comments come after Riverbend Community School, a private school in Moncton that specializes in teaching children with learning disabilities, ended its day program.

The school had spent six years trying to work out a tuition support program with the province.

Tuition at the school is $11,500 a year.

Education consultant Paul Bennett has said a tuition rebate program could reduce the strain on public schools. (CBC)

Nova Scotia has a tuition support program for such schools that, if it were available in New Brunswick, would cover about $8,000 of the cost.

On Tuesday, Paul Bennett, the director of Schoolhouse Consulting, said a tuition rebate program could reduce the strain on public schools.

Cardy said residents already have a high tax rate, and the focus should be on making sure the public school system is serving everybody before any deals with private schools are worked out.

"It's not necessarily the difference between public and private,"Cardy said. "It's the difference between the quality the parents need and expect and the lower standards that they've experienced."

Public system needs fixing

Cardy said the province has an inclusive school system in theory but said in practice it often doesn't.

Some children with behavioural problems are often sent home, or put on partial day plans, where they only come to school for part of the day.

He fears these are basically being used as substitutions for suspensions and even expulsions.

Riverbend Community School, a private school in Moncton that specializes in teaching children with learning disabilities, is ending its day program. (CBC)

"We've got to get back to focusing on making sure New Brunswick students have got as much time with New Brunswick's excellent teachers as they can possibly get,"

Cardy said the province basically has two options: spend money and resources on creating a dual system or spend time fixing the current system.

"I can tell you I'm going to proceed that second choice," said Cardy.

With files from Information Morning Moncton

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