The provincial government recently announced an additional $1 million in funding to boost support for special needs students in “specialized independent schools,” and the board of School District 72 says public schools need that support, too.
In a letter sent this week to Education Minister Mike Bernier, signed by board chair Susan Wilson on behalf of the board, the district says it “strongly feel[s] that this financial support should also be offered for students in our public schools as well,” and requests that the $2,000 that has been offered for supporting special needs students in “independent schools” also be made available “for all students that have been designated as having special needs in the public education system.”
The board admits in its letter that it does not have access to details surrounding the current state of funding special needs supports in “independent” schools relative to students in the public system, “but experience and anecdotal evidence as well as the report of the Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services indicates that the level of funding for special needs children is inadequate.”
The board’s letter also says that additional funding would help to address the “unsatisfactory situation” of so-called “full-time” assistance for special needs students receiving five hours of educational assistance time per day when they are in school for six.
“Additionally,” the letter continues, “in our district, and indeed throughout the province, there is another aspect of student health that is not designated, and therefore not adequately funded. More than ever teachers and schools are experiencing and dealing with the behaviours of students who are suffering from the conditions of anxiety, depression, stress, and suicidal tendencies. There is a virtual epidemic of mental and emotional health concerns for children from elementary to senior secondary ages in schools across the province. This is an important issue, not only because it affects the quality of life of those students who are dealing with these difficulties, but because the link between emotional and mental health and student achievement is widely acknowledged. The complexity of these needs is beyond the professional skills and training of teachers.”
The board goes on to suggest that additional funding is not the only thing that is needed to fix these issues, however.
“Both financial resources and a fresh, considered approach to collaboration between the ministries of Education, Health and Children and Family Development are critical in meeting the needs of students in participating in school and achieving success.
Improved access to trained school counsellors, more integration and availability of professionals from various ministries, and financial support to provide the time and training for a collaborative approach between the ministries is needed to support the work of our teachers and administrators and have a positive impact on our students’ learning outcomes.”