News: No funds for special needs kids

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Published in the June 12 2010 issue of The Edmonton Sun. News


No funds for special needs kids

Special needs students could soon be integrated into regular classrooms after the provincial government announced Friday it’s going ahead with a plan for an inclusive special education system.

However, Minister of Education Dave Hancock said funding for the redesigned system is still unclear.

“I don’t know how long it will take before we get a new funding formula,” Hancock said.

“What’s most important is that we figure out how to work and align our resources … and then we can figure out the alignment and resources that go into that.”

He also said that the current funding model for special education in the province isn’t working.

“We use a ton of resources diagnosing children and putting paper in files about what their condition is, and to a great extent that has very little relevance to what their learning needs are or what their support needs are,” he said.

“We can take those resources and use them differently to actually provide learning supports, technology supports and supporting teachers and schools in how we wrap services around those children.”

The inclusive education announcement was made at Crawford Plains School, 4210 12 Ave. where successful inclusion practices are already in place for its 70 special needs students from kindergarten to Grade 6.

“We had to design literacy and other subject areas very differently in order to meet the needs of all students in our school,” said principal Jeanne Carter.

“Learning to differentiate instruction has resulted in all of our students growing far beyond what were our possibilities and imaginations.”

Three “inclusive education planning tool” pilot projects will be implemented this September at four provincial francophone schools and schools in Fort McMurray and Red Deer, while a variety of other practices will be carried out slowly throughout the province.

But a Liberal critic for children and youth services and education is skeptical the system will work.

“Minister Hancock down-played the importance of funding,” said Liberal MLA Harry Chase. “It’s all very heavy on feel-good philosophy, inspiring education, but if there’s no funding commitment or no timeline commitment … I don’t see it being practically implemented.

“If we’re going to be successful with including all children in the system, funding is a key issue.”

The system overhaul is based on supports and service recommendations from a special education report that included consultations with more than 7,000 Albertans over the past two years.

The government spent $2.5 million for the consultation process.

There is no date set for when a fully inclusive education system would be in place but Minister of Health and Wellness Gene Zwozdesky hopes to see changes within a year and a half.

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