Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of July 1, 2002
Parents fight to include children
Catholic school board cuts special needs funding
By LELLA BLUMER
"I think that there is enough money for every kid whose family wants them to, to be a part of their local community."
- Dick Sobsey
Of the 669 students coded as severe special needs in the district, 401 are in inclusive settings. Seventy-nine per cent of the 2,800 students coded mild to moderate are also served inclusively.
"But it is not possible for us to offer the level of service at every neighbourhood school as at a district school," Ripley told the group June 10.
While there has not been a shift in the district's policy or philosophy toward inclusive education, Ripley says, there was a change in the budget-funding model this school year.
Rather than designating $3 million of the instructional grant toward special education, the district set aside significantly less for special needs students, and increased the per student amount for all students given to each school. The amount of money did not decrease, but the dollars are no longer "labelled" for special education.
Principals are questioning where students should be placed and are providing parents with choices, Willis says. "Parents who are committed to inclusion would not see that as presenting options."
Rob Devlin and Monica Brusda-Roch certainly don't see it that way. Both received notice in the spring that there would be no support for their children to be educated at the neighbourhood schools they currently attend.
"I know that many parents got letters from their principals in June saying basically your best option is a district site because there will be no support for your child to be educated at this school," Brusda-Roch says.
"It may be the principal's decision, but they are coming right out and saying that it's due to funding."
Brusda-Roch says she was disappointed with the board's response to the group's presentation on June 10.
"I was hoping for more of a commitment: it seemed they acknowledged our concerns but nothing else."
Devlin says what concerns him is that some parents may agree to move their children because they don't feel they have any options.
"Some parents feel they can't put up a fight anymore. They've been fighting their whole lives, and they will agree just to get it over with."
That's what Klassen is hoping to change.
"I want to help parents so that they don't have to go through what I'm going through.
"Nathan is in junior high next year, and right now I don't know what our choices are. Other parents here have children in elementary school. Hopefully, by the time they get to junior high, they'll have different choices than I have."
Sobsey says he hasn't given up hope either, despite the fact the group's request for a renewed commitment to inclusive education has not yet been answered.
He says he would like to sit down with the district's administration and work together to find solutions.
"I think they are people who want to do what's right," he says. But he adds that parents' energy could be better used.
"I think if these parents weren't busy trying to get the Catholic schools to support inclusion, maybe those parents could be working with the Catholic schools trying to get the province to better fund it.
"We shouldn't be fighting with each other."
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