Parent advocates decry BC government funding for
select special needs private schools as elitist and segregatory
For immediate release
BRITISH COLUMBIA October 4, 2016 – Sending $1 million in special needs funding to select private schools smacks of elitism, says a parent advocacy group made up of BC parents of special needs children, Action for Equitable Access to Education (BCEDAccess). The group is reacting to yesterday’s announcement of funding for 15 select private schools.
“That means just 500 kids will get the help, services and support they deserve,” says Andrea Kennedy, a spokesperson for BCEDAccess. “But 45,000 other students with special needs in BC schools will continue to struggle to access the same services.” BCEDAccess calls for the Minister of Education to reaffirm a commitment to inclusive, public education in B.C. and match this funding increase commitment for all special needs students in British Columbia, with the same formula as per pupil funding (50% to private schools).
In 2015, BCEDAccess issued a report documenting the numerous families with special needs children being forced out of the public education system. Minister at the time, Peter Fassbender and his representatives said there was no funding available to improve services for children in public school. The report and recommendations can be found on their website: equitableaccesstoeducation.wordpress.com.
“Now, with this week’s funding, the government acknowledges the need for these services and indicates that they want to provide essential, specialized services — but only if you are in one of these select private schools,” says Kennedy. “They’re breaking the system and moving us further toward a two-tiered education program; one for those who can afford quality education and one for those who are relegated to an under-resourced public system.” The Ministry of Education’s policy for students with special needs states: All students should have equitable access to learning, opportunities for achievement and the pursuit of excellence in all aspects of their educational programs.
“Education is a human right, not a privilege for people with money,” adds Kennedy, noting tuition is out of reach for most families. “It’s a Charter right for all children in British Columbia who have special needs to have equal access to education — in an inclusive environment, not segregation. Many parents who can afford these options, choose them as a last resort when they are forced out of the BC public education system, sometimes going deep into debt or cutting expenses to the bone to make ends meet.”
BCEDAccess notes that, rather than supporting truly vulnerable students, this government has consistently and repeatedly cut funding to Districts who have in turn been forced to cut staff positions including specialized teachers and education assistants. The group’s 2015 report “identified a number of areas where adequate support was lacking including; no access to specialized services (44%), inadequate training for educational assistants (42%) and not following the individualized education plan (43%)” notes Tracy Humphreys, a member of the group and a parent who says she was forced to remove her two children from public school earlier this year.
Kennedy adds, “We are demanding that funding provided to children with special needs in our public education system be adequate to meet their needs. All children are guaranteed the Charter right to equitably access public education and it’s time for the BC Ministry of Education to ensure this education is provided.”
Founded over 2 years ago by 10 parents who were struggling to get their kids support at school, BC Parents of Special Needs Children – Action for Equitable Access to Education has swelled to 865 members. The group is promoted to parents who have children with special needs in British Columbia to share information, find support and work towards ensuring there is equitable access to education for ALL children.The Forced Out report and recommendations can be found on their website: equitableaccesstoeducation.wordpress.com.
Background: Ministry of Education Policy
The Ministry of Education’s policy for students with special needs states: “All students should have equitable access to learning, opportunities for achievement and the pursuit of excellence in all aspects of their educational programs.”