New Brunswick

Parents seek financial help for private school tuition

Private school operators and some parents are calling on the New Brunswick government to offer financial support to families who choose a private education for their children.

Nova Scotia offers up to $7,600 to help children with learning disabilities afford private education

Nine students attend Riverbend Community School in Moncton. School director Rebecca Bulmer is calling on the government to provide tuition support so more families could afford private education for their children who struggle with learning disabilities. (Submitted by Rebecca Bulmer)

Private school operators and some parents are calling on the New Brunswick government to offer financial support to families who choose a private education for their children.

Adrienne O'Pray's 11-year-old daughter, Sophie, was struggling in public school classrooms because of hearing loss and dyslexia.

O'Pray said it was difficult for Sophie to keep up with the busy schedule at school.

O'Pray said she believes principals and resource teachers in the public system did their best to help her daughter, but says it just wasn't an environment that worked for her.

It translates into changing lives, it's not just an educational experience, it's a life experience.- Rebecca Bulmer, director Riverbend Community School

Sophie now attends Riverbend Community School and is part of a class of nine students and three full-time teachers. All of Sophie’s classmates have learning disabilities.

“That is the right place for her and she's really found a place where she can excel and really fit in so it's been awesome,” O’Pray said.

Riverbend is a private school that is located in downtown Moncton. Tuition at the School is $11,500.

Rebecca Bulmer, the school’s director, said she knows that tuition fee is out of reach for many families.

Atlantic Voice documentary

Listen to more about the rise of private schools in Moncton on CBC's Atlantic Voice this weekend.

CBC reporter Vanessa Blanch's documentary will explore the expectations of parents when it comes to education. The documentary airs at 8:30 a.m. on Nov. 16.

She is asking the provincial government to help by offering tuition support to students who aren't being well served by the public system.

“It translates into changing lives, it's not just an educational experience, it's a life experience,” Bulmer said.

“You take a student who is falling through the cracks in Grade 4, fast forward to Grade 12, if they even make it to Grade 12, most don't. They either quit or they graduate with a diploma still not knowing how to read.”

Bulmer said tuition support for private schools would be a "game-changer" for New Brunswick.

"We feel that different education and accessible education for students who struggle or need to experience literacy differently is absolutely a right that every student should have," she said.

Nova Scotia offers assistance

Riverbend Community School is a private day school that has been operating in downtown Moncton since fall, 2013. (Vanessa Blanch/CBC)
In Nova Scotia, students with learning difficulties can receive up to $7,600 towards their tuition at a private institution.

The tuition support program in Nova Scotia will cover up to 90 per cent of the cost of tuition for up to four years for children who have been diagnosed with a learning disability, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or an autism spectrum disorder.

Education Minister Serge Rousselle was unavailable to comment on whether such a program was a possibility in New Brunswick.

In a statement, a spokesperson for the department said, "At this point, all we can say is that there is no specific programs of tuition support for students who opt to enrol in private schools in New Brunswick."

Riverbend's Bulmer said public schools simply don't have the resources to offer the kind of remediation some students need.

"So we take them on here, they become literate, they become participating members of our community that can access jobs and contribute to Moncton, to New Brunswick ... that's good for the government," she said.

Bulmer said she will continue to push for a tuition support program that would open up private schools to more students.

She is also hoping to start a foundation to raise money for families whose children could benefit from a different learning environment.

“What are we really trying to accomplish? Are we really trying to hang on to all of our students so all the funds can stay in one school or are we trying to educate our kids?” she said.

“And that's what we should be focusing on is the big picture and the idea that the number one goal is to make sure that our community is filled with rich education, not just education because it's there.”

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