The provincial New Democrat's Education critic. St. John's North MHA Dale Kirby hosted a community forum last night to discuss issues facing students with disabilities in the province's K-12 system.
The emotion and stress faced by parents, educators and former students with special needs was very evident. People are very concerned with the direction the provincial government is taking with the 2013 Budget cuts.
The panel included Memorial University's Dr. David Philpot, Learning Disabilities Association of Newfoundland and Labrador Executive Director, David Banfield and I represented the NL Federation of School Councils.
The Federation has been very engaged in discussions with schools councils, government, special interest groups, the NLTA and decision makers regarding the challenges of inclusion and the provision of programs and services that is child centered.
The issue of inclusion has become a hot topic as of late in the media and on talk shows. Sometimes, I feel saddened by the lack of compassion and understanding offered by some observers, but I understand the root of the concerns.
Within the current model, inclusion is no longer within the realm of the Special Education teacher only, but is a whole school initiative.
Parents, teachers and other organizations are telling us that the ability to appropriately meet the identified intellectual, academic, emotional, social, behavioral, personal safety, and communication needs of students did not exist before the budget, and the cuts will only make the increase those challenges.
A cookie cutter approach does not work, Disability differs by need. The supports have to be put in place that takes into account the individual’s needs and the context of the school setting and changes in students needs over time. The accommodation of differences is crucial.
Without the needed resources we can not expect our teachers and education system to deliver the specialized and individual instruction our special needs children need.
In September 2013 there will be only one specialist teacher per every 150 students . …..Instead of one per every 125 students, as there is now.,
In September 2013 the number of teaching units for the ‘needs-based’ allocation will be reduced. About 40% of the teaching units being cut by the Provincial Budget will be coming from the ‘needs-based’ part of the teacher allocation model.
This part of the model is intended to provide additional teachers to meet needs that districts identify but which cannot be met by the ‘formula-based’ allocations under the teacher allocation model.
In the meantime, the in-class demands are higher than ever. Some how teachers are supposed to deliver the same programs with less resources.
How can these cuts not impact the collaborative model that is needed for inclusion to be a success?
Less is not more, no matter how many times were are told it is!