Media Release October 4, 2016 Re: Private SES Funding

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.”

 

About BCEdAccess
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.”

Contact:

Andrea Kennedy
604-230-4609

Tracy Humphreys

250-858-5165
Emailequitableaccesstoeducation@gmail.com
Website: equitableaccesstoeducation.wordpress.com

Special Needs Funding in BC Schools – It’s Not What You Think

egg rolls

The allocation of services for students in various categories is not like a Chinese Food Menu…if you have designation “X”, it comes with egg rolls and a full time EA

The Ministry began by determining, in a very broad way, approximately how much it will cost to meet the needs of students in certain special education categories. They recognize that the sum they have come up with may exceed the cost of meeting the needs of some students and be insufficient to meet the needs of others within the same category.

In short, the Ministry has never claimed that the funds your child’s category generates for the district, are to be assigned to your child. They are to be pooled at the district level with some students getting a bit more and others a bit less, depending on their identified needs which is determined by the school district.

At the beginning of a new school year, with hundreds of Special Needs students in need of immediate support, the district has to come up with some way of distributing the resources they have (EA time, Speech/Language, etc.) to students who need them. There is no time to evaluate the individual level of support needed for each student based on their unique needs at this point.

Typically, and especially in large districts, a district will employ some system to determine what services automatically go where at the beginning of the year based on designations…and from there, the tweaking begins with some students requiring more and others less support.

This automation of the service distribution causes many educators and parents to believe that students in certain categories are mandated to receive certain kinds and levels of service. It just isn’t true no matter who tells you that.

It’s just an in-house system that approximates needs by category and responds with distributing roughly what they think the service level needs will be. Districts take into account the data they have collected from previous years, based on student populations at the school level – how many Special Needs students were enrolled the previous year, and how many have moved up a level. They may also factor in that some schools will have a higher incidence of Special Needs students than others, and account for that in their initial distribution.

After the initial distribution, districts know that some tweaking will still need to occur to ensure those students who need more than was allocated will receive additional support. So districts will hold back a pool of EA time (and other services) for this reason. After a few weeks, parents and/or educators may see that the supports that were automatically generated are insufficient to support a particular student. Typically, the principal applies to the department of Student Services requesting additional EA time, explaining the need – usually around the end of October.

The bottom line is, it doesn’t matter what category your child is designated in.

The services they receive, and the intensity or level of service they get, must be based on each student’s unique individual needs…not on an automated service delivery system.

It’s the law of the land (Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, BC Human Rights Act – upheld by the Supreme Court of Canada) and no public service like public education can write a policy that changes that fact.

  • Cathie Camley

 

Guest Post: The Paper Bag

This is a powerful message from Kim McLeod, originally shared on her public Facebook page. Please read and share widely.

Author: Kim McLeod

This is published with permission from the author. This post was originally published on her public Facebook page HERE.


Open letter to the schools, to the administrations, teachers, support staff and students

The Paper Bag

It is graduation year for my son and the students were at the annual day away at a local camp to celebrate their end of year and their time spent completing their journey through middle and high school .

I arrived to pick up my son and his nurse from this activity and there were happy students everywhere! They were taking pictures, playing games, and talking. Teacher stood around talking as well, everyone smiled. It was a beautiful, fun filled day.

I found my son at the centre of the main room flanked by his wheelchair on one side and his nurse on the other as he received some medication. All…

View original post 620 more words

Notes from the April Advocacy Conference

We would like to thank all of our attendees for coming to our first Advocacy Conference in April.  It was a huge success, connections were made, and much was learned!We would also like to extend a warm thanks to all of our amazing presenters.  Their time and dedication is so appreciated, and now they are providing their conference notes for our reference in continuing our advocacy work for our children.

Tracy Humphreys, Conference Coordinator

I will be posting over the next few weeks as I receive these notes.  Sign up to follow our blog for updates!

FOLLOW

CONFERENCE PRESENTATIONS AND NOTES:

We would ask that you please cite or attribute any quotes or references to the presenters. 

JODIE WICKENS, MLA COQUITLAM-BURKE MOUNTAIN

Deputy Education Spokesperson

Access to Education presentation

LINDSAY WADDELL, LAWYER 

Moore Edgar Lyster

Education as a Human Right – FINAL

KAREN DELONG, LYNNE KENT, ANGELA CLANCY

LDABC (Learning Disabilities Association of British Columbia), Inclusion BC, Family Support Institute of BC

Advocating for Special Needs in BC Schools – Karen

BIRGITTA VON KROSIGK, KEYNOTE PRESENTER

Dialogica

Advocating for the Advocate – Conference notes

B von Krosigk Advocating for the Advocate April 2016

DR. SHERRI A. BROWN, PH.D.  and TINA PATTERSON, M.Ed.

ABC’s of IEP’s April 2016

THERESA GRECH

TMG Consulting, counselling and education

http://www.tmgconsulting.ca/education-and-training/

 

Shoring Up The Cracks

For parents who have children who struggle in some or all academic areas, I have some thoughts I’d like to share about reporting student progress – in particular about reporting progress as it relates to IEP goals and objectives, so their child won’t be one of those who falls between the cracks.

Spiral Curriculum:

A spiral curriculum is an area of study, like math, where students will have that same subject throughout their school career. Each year the content of that subject will increase in complexity, reinforce, and very often depend upon, the student’s prior learning. For example, to be able to multiply and divide, it certainly helps to be competent in addition and subtraction. If a student is missing one or more of those foundation building blocks, then as the curriculum continues to spiral, learning new material becomes more difficult and the greater liklihood of falling through the “wait and see” crack.

The Matthew Effect (The rich get richer, the poor get poorer):

The Matthew Effect is the term used to describe the situation where, once a student falls behind their peers, the gap in learning between the stuggling student and their peers, tends to grow greater over time. This is especially true in areas where the curriculum spirals. In Grade Three he is one year behind. By Grade Eight he is three years behind – and so it continues with the gap ever increasing and catching up becomes impossible. A key argument for early intensive intervention to prevent a child falling though the “Matthew Effect” crack.

Reporting Rates of Progress – a Critical Aspect of Reporting:

A student who has fallen behind and is receiving intervention may well be making progress. What is often not not stated when reporting on the success of an intervention plan is the rate of that progress. At the same time the struggling student is making gains, his peers are also progressing though the curriculum. If their pace of progress is similar to the struggling student’s, then the student will remain behind. If their pace is quicker, due to their accumulated advantage, then the Matthew Effect comes into play, and the gap will widen for the struggling student. Being told that your child is making progress isn’t enough information to know if they will be able to catch up to their peers at some point. Knowing the pace of progress is an important factor in preventing a student from falling though the “she’s making progress” crack.

Measurable Goals and Objectives:

If there is an expectation that a student who has fallen behind is capable of performing at grade level, then it is important to include in the plan (IEP) criteria for measuring and reporting – not only progress – but also the rate of progress. There should be concrete criteria established that clearly shows progress is being made, and an estimated time-frame that helps you to know if the plan is on track towards completion on time. Without this information, you really have no way of knowing if the plan is working. These are the things that should be in the reports you receive. That way, if you see things aren’t going as planned, you can ask for the plan to be evaluated to find out what isn’t working. There could be many reasons why the plan isn’t working and each should be examined to see if changes are in order….because the, “nothing changes, if nothing changes” crack is an annual one.

In some cases, where the gap is already quite wide (several years behind), it may take several years to catch up. The IEP should specifically identify there are long-range goals so that each fall, rather than a fresh new IEP with new/different goals and objectives, the current plan can be carried forward. For students who are working on highly modiified curriuculum, establishing measurable goals and ojectives and a time-line for completion are no less important. Don’t let them fall into the “We have all the time in the world” crack.

– Cathie Camley

 

Survey Results

For two weeks in April, the BC Parents of Special Needs Kids – Action for Equitable Access to Education group invited parents and caregivers from across the Province to share their thoughts on public education. The survey was targeted towards parents/caregivers who currently have children who experience extra support needs attending public school, as well as those parents/caregivers who had removed their child with extra support needs from public bricks and mortar school.

The survey results should only be used as a reference point to further discussion regarding current opinions of parents who have children who have extra learning support needs in public bricks and mortar education in their community. Parents/caregivers who have children who are accessing a public bricks and mortar school (or had accessed in the past) were invited to participate via the survey being posted on a number of Facebook groups for parents who have children with disabilities. The survey was also posted on twitter and shared via email.

Provincial
Click here to read the Provincial Results

Three additional reports were generated for the communities of Vancouver, Abbotsford and Surrey.

Vancouver
Vancouver Results
Abbotsford
Abbotsford Results
Surrey
Surrey Results

Some highlights from the survey:

  • The majority of respondents have children who are elementary school age
  • Of the respondents who indicated they had removed their child from a bricks and mortar school, more stated they had been ‘forced out’ versus choosing to leave the public bricks and mortar system.
  • Children being sent home early from school due to lack of support continues to be a concern, with 20% of respondents indicating this has been a challenge for them.
  • Specialized services such as Occupational Therapy and Speech Language Therapy continue to be recommended for children, but families cannot get access to these in the public bricks and mortar schools.
  • Deteriorating emotional health of child (anxiety, depression) due to lack of support continues to be a significant concern for parents and caregivers

The Ministry of Education recently invited parents to complete an online satisfaction survey regarding their child’s education. The survey was generic and only allowed for comments regarding special education in this province. We would like to encourage the Ministry of Education and all School Districts across the Province to consider designing a survey specifically for parents who have children with special needs, in order to get a clearer picture of the challenges (and successes!) they are experiencing in the public education system.

 

 

Open Letter to North Okanagan/Shuswap Board of Education

May 11, 2016

North Okanagan / Shuswap Board of Education:

RE: “Students who attend alternate education programs are often the most vulnerable population in the school system.” – BC Government

I am writing in regards to the alternate learning programs slated for closure. I am writing as a Parent of a child in Public School System; and although not a child of the alternate learning program, I am still a passionate public school advocate and concerned community member.

I was drawn to the Salmon Arm Observer article on Apr 14, 2016. I note that in Asquith’s quote, “This restructuring was not a board decision. It was a committee of people working together to determine what is the best way to proceed with supports for students,” said Asquith. “This committee involved principals, alternate teachers, school psychologists, counsellors, parents and classroom teachers.”

open-letter-placeholder

It is very interesting to me that nowhere in this committee does it include a student voice. These are the people being most effected by the closure, and deserve to at least have their voice and the opinions heard. Why this school is important to them! Their letters site mental health, social, physical and academic concerns. Should that not be a priority and a consideration in the slated closure?

It is also a great concern to me that Asquith says, “the goal is to build more learning resource teacher time, provide greater capacity with classroom teachers, more learning resource teacher time into our rural schools and additional school psychologist time to behaviour assessment time.”

Again I will state that although these goals sound good on paper; however, they are all focused on the teachers and teacher resources, not one line of this statement addresses the needs of the students of this program. This is a budgetary decision made by a committee on a report, that has not been made public.

I wish to site 3 areas for consideration:

The first is School Act (RSBC 1996) Chapter 412; Part 2 – Students and Parents; Division1 – Students. Under the heading:
Consultation

4 A student is entitled to consult with a teacher, principal, vice principal or director of instruction with regard to that student’s educational program.

I will again draw your attention to the fact that none of the StoreFront students were consulted in the impending closure of their school.

Secondly; is the Supreme Court of Canada on the right to equal access to education Moore v. British Columbia. The Supreme Court of Canada has agreed on the definition of ‘education as a service’ under human rights legislation to which children with disabilities are entitled to equal access. Speaking on behalf of the Supreme Court of Canada, Justice Rosalie Silberman Abella found, “Adequate special education… is not a dispensable luxury… it is the ramp that provides access to the statutory commitment to education made to all children in British Columbia.”

I would argue that the students of our Alternative School are in need of special education. The brick and mortar traditional school does not meet their needs and they are entitled and due the necessary adaptations to have a successful and quality education. And should that adaptation be the StoreFront then so be it.

Finally, as per – the BC Government website, http://www2.gov.bc.ca/…/public-…/alternate-education-program
Alternate Education Program

Policy Statement

Alternate education programs focus on educational, social and emotional issues for students whose needs are not being met in a traditional school program. An alternate education program provides its support through differentiated instruction, specialized program delivery and enhanced counselling services based on students’ needs.

Rationale or purpose of policy

Students who attend alternate education programs are often the most vulnerable population in the school system. Alternate education programs have disproportionate numbers of children and youth in care, Aboriginal students, children and youth living in poverty or the street, gifted children who have difficulty in social situations, children and youth involved in drugs, alcohol and the sex trade, and youth with mental health concerns. Alternate education programs offer an opportunity for these vulnerable and at-risk students to experience success.

Authority

The relevant sections of the School Act with respect to the alternate education programs include the following:

The preamble to the School Act states:

WHEREAS it is the goal of a democratic society to ensure that all its members receive an education that enables them to become literate, personally fulfilled and publicly useful, thereby increasing the strength and contributions to the health and stability of that society;

AND WHEREAS the purpose of the British Columbia school system is to enable all learners to become literate, to develop their individual potential and to acquire the knowledge, skills and attitudes needed to contribute to a healthy, democratic and pluralistic society and a prosperous and sustainable economy;

I would ask that the students of the Alternative Program be able to express and voice their concerns in a person, or at least by written submission, for consideration. I would ask that these points above in conjunction with the students’ voices be taken seriously into consideration before the decision to close our School Districts alternative program.

And I would ask that we all remember the School Act states, “it is the goal of a democratic society to ensure that all its members receive an education that enables them to become literate, personally fulfilled and publicly useful, thereby increasing the strength and contributions to the health and stability of that society”. Let us hold up our most vulnerable youth so that they can reach their full potential.

Our schools need more funding and less cuts and that is a provincial issue to keep in mind as well.

In sincere hope,

Brandi Butts

Public Education Survey

The BC Parents of Special Needs Children – Action for Equitable Access to Education is doing a follow up on the Forced Out report from one year ago.

If you are a parent who has a child/children with extra learning support needs in British Columbia, we would love for you to take this short survey. The survey is focused on family experiences with public education in this province.

The survey will close on Friday, April 29, 2016.

Getting Ready for a New School Year – Spring is the Time to Prepare

Author: Cathie Camley

Ministry policy requires that Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) be reviewed annually. This usually happens towards the end of the school year. It is important for parents to be involved in the annual review in my humble opinion. Not only is the IEP reviewed to identify successes and what “next steps” should be in place, it also serves as a bit of a blueprint for the fall before a new IEP is written.

For students who are transitioning to another school in the fall, this is the time to ensure that plans and preparations are made for the new school to receive your child. Ministry policy requires that transition planning be included in the IEP. If it isn’t done already, now is the time to get it done.

For students moving from elementary to middle or from middle to high school, it is usual for the receiving school specialist teacher(s) to meet with specialist staff at the feeder schools to find out which students with special needs they will be receiving in the fall and what they need to do to prepare. However, there is no guarantee that the staff who receive this information will be on staff at that school in the fall. My advice is not to rely too heavily that this information will find its way to the receiving school’s staff. When kids fall off lists…this is usually the time it happens. Take the opportunity to ask when the new school sets up meetings for parents to discuss program and service needs and start IEPs in the fall.

This is also the time to review your child’s G-4 file. All students who are registered in the district have a file that is kept at the school where the child attends. This file will be sent to the new school so you will want to ensure the information it contains is up to date and accurate. The Ministry says parents have the right to review the file and that the principal, or his or her delegate, should accompany you to “interpret” the contents. If there is information you think is inaccurate or out of date, ask for it to be removed or brought up to date. If that request is denied, you may write a letter to the principal with the accurate or more up to date information and cc a copy to the G-4 file so at least you are on record. And then there’s always an opportunity to appeal a decision not to change the contents of a file if you believe that the contents will affect your child’s health, safety or education.

Some schools will host a visiting day towards the end of the year for students who will be attending in the fall so they become familiar with their new schools. For many of our children this one day may not be enough to provide a smooth transition so ask if it can be arranged to have you child come on more than one occasion.

Many of our kids have difficulty finding their way around a large physical space. If it is at all possible see if you can find out where your child’s classes will be and practice the route between classrooms on your visit(s). Walk the grounds too to locate doors in and out and where bathrooms are. Check out the lunchroom cafeteria and menu boards too if your child has dietary concerns to see what options are available. See if the receiving school will allow you and your child a walk though just before school reopens in the fall too….just a refresher of the site.

Lockers can be challenging. Here’s a few tips that might help make things easier.Ask for a locker assignment beside a door so it will be easier to find. It’s hard to find your locker from a long row of lockers in a long hallway. Ask for a special lock for the locker. Some schools have locks with combinations that don’t require three numbers…just one. Ask if you can keep the lock over the summer so your child can practice with it. My own son carried his entire locker contents in his backpack for several months because he couldn’t manage his lock or even find his locker. An astute specialist teacher called me about his doing this. He was too embarrassed to tell me he couldn’t manage his lock.

Early in the fall, and once schedules are known, review with your child what will be needed for each day’s schedule and colour code supplies for each subject (duotangs, text books covers, etc) so that things will be easy to find and organize to take from class to class.

It does take some time for staff to become familiar with their new students and to draft new IEPs. At high school, where students have one teacher for every subject, it is more challenging for subject teachers to get to know students well. It is quite common for subject teachers not to know that some of their students have special needs – especially those with invisible disabilities. A quick visit helps as does a one page sheet you prepare that outlines essential accommodations helps to ensure there is an awareness that your child will need some support.

For students who are graduating, the Ministry requires that there be some transition planning articulated in the IEP to help you and your child learn about what is available in terms of programs, services, continued educational opportunities, employment, training, etc. .

This is far from complete, so I invite you to add to these suggestions in the comment section.

One week till Advocacy Conference!!

***Get your tickets below!!***

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/advocating-for-special-needs-in-bc-schools-conference-tickets-20582695396

We’re so excited that we have one week to go until our Vancouver conference!  This is our first ‘in-person’ event.  Here are some of the actions our group has taken in the last year and a half:

https://equitableaccesstoeducation.wordpress.com/forced-out-survey-results/

https://equitableaccesstoeducation.wordpress.com/2016/03/05/equitable-access-for-all/

https://equitableaccesstoeducation.wordpress.com/in-the-news/

Please contact us at equitableaccesstoeducation@gmail.com if you would like an invitation to our ‘secret’ Facebook group to learn more advocacy and get support.

We look forward to seeing you next weekend!