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Special needs funding at risk — Coquitlam teachers

CTA president pleads for help to fight proposed funding changes that would base special needs funding on population averages rather than individual students

The Coquitlam Teachers’ Association is speaking out about concerns that a new provincial funding model could change the way special needs students are funded in School District 43.

While the model has yet to be approved and the province is still in the consultation stage, CTA president Ken Christensen asked the School District 43 board of education to speak out against a so-called “prevalence model” in education funding.

Today, schools are funded on a per-pupil basis, with extra funding for each identified student with special needs.

But changes, if approved, would lump several current supplements, including those for special needs students, vulnerable and English/French language learners into a single Inclusive Education Supplement based on third party medical and socio-economic population data to determine how many students with needs would be expected in a given population.

However, students requiring high costs supports would still get funding after rigorous audits and based on medical data.

For SD43, which already spends more on special needs education than it receives in targeted funding, and has seen an influx of special needs students in recent years, concerns are that a prevalence model would result in inadequate supports for students.

Christensen told trustees the move toward the prevalence model would reduce special needs funding for the district, reduce transparency and would make current class size and composition language obsolete.

He called on the board to advocate against the prevalence model. “Will you help us with that?” he asked.

He was reassured by secretary treasurer Chris Nicolls who said the board has already raised the issue with the province.

“The board has actually discussed that particular piece and others and has a very great concern over that approach. We are also concerned about the removal of course by course funding and what that means for music and the arts programs in particular.

“The message you are sharing with us is a message we have shared with government and we will continue to share with government and is not at the right approach for our students,” Nicolls said.

In December, the ministry of education released the report of the funding model review panel but decided to establish working groups to discuss the recommendations further. As a result, no funding model changes are planned for this year.

The last time the funding model for K to 12 education was changed was in 2002.