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Special education policy raises concerns locally

On June 11, Education Minister Dave Hancock said while the government is committed to including special needs students in regular classrooms, it is not prepared to increase funding.

On June 11, Education Minister Dave Hancock said while the government is committed to including special needs students in regular classrooms, it is not prepared to increase funding.

Instead, he says, teachers will be expected to use more inclusive methods of teaching to more diverse classrooms. While nothing will change this fall, the Province will eventually stop tying funding dollars to specific children diagnosed and coded with behavioural or learning problems. The funding will be dispersed, instead, at the school or classroom level and the money saved on diagnosis will help build capacity in the classroom.

“The work ahead marks an incredible shift in the way we educate all of our children,” said Dave Hancock, Minister of Education.

“An educational culture that values the unique gifts of each and every child, and a new approach to service delivery will enable us to better integrate and tailor supports to the needs of our children and youth, so that every student can achieve success.”

Rocky View Schools Board Chair Sylvia Eggerer said she is concerned about adding to the workload of already burdened teachers.

“We are asking teachers to do more and more and more because of a lack of funding,” she said.

“We are adding more students to each classroom and increasing the diversity of the students and each of these things adds more pressure to teachers. We need to keep our teachers because there will be a shortage in the next little while.”

She agrees with the integration of special needs students in regular classrooms but says there is a tipping point where it can effect regular programming.

“The school division has already been stretched to the max financially. How are we going to supply the support needed for the teachers?” she asked.

“We are already subsidizing the amount we are given for special needs by a couple of a million dollars. My concern is how are we going to deal with this?”

Rocky View Schools receives $16,465 per child for a total of $2.5 million in special education funding from the Province. The school division allocates $7 million in resource staffing and provides funding for tuition fees for external services, as well as funds for psychological assessments and program specialists.

The Wildrose Alliance party, including Airdrie-Chestermere MLA Rob Anderson condemned the PC government’s findings as a short-sighted, cost cutting strategy.

“The report’s conclusions are very alarming to those parents with special needs students,” said Anderson.

“Parents are sick and tired of seeing children shuffled through each grade and course in the name of ‘inclusiveness’ regardless of whether they have mastered the material. It’s time we provide our students with the tools needed to learn in the way and at the pace best suited for them as individuals rather than the current one-size-fits-all assembly line approach.

“Eliminating coding and placing all students in the same classroom with less support for those with special needs will leave special needs students farther behind and hold back those kids hungry for more learning opportunities.”


Airdrie Today Staff

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