BC teachers oppose government’s proposed changes to special education funding

Glen Hansman

AT the 2019 BC Teachers’ Federation Annual General Meeting, teacher delegates from every community in BC voted overwhelmingly to oppose the government’s misguided proposal to change the way services for students with special needs are funded. The proposal, called the prevalence model, would move funding away from the actual needs of students to an impersonal statistical model that will put services to kids at risk, says the BCTF.

“When it comes to a choice between services for children with special needs or statistical efficiency for senior managers, teachers choose students,” said BCTF President Glen Hansman on Monday. “In Ontario, where the prevalence model has been adopted, the result is fewer services and more rationing of scarce resources. Breaking the link between funding and student need results in fewer diagnoses, which in turn makes supporting students harder. It’s the wrong direction to take education funding in BC. The government needs to come out clearly and say they will quash this prevalence model.”

Hansman explained that the problems with the government’s education funding review started when stakeholder groups that represent teachers and support staff were excluded from the panel.

He said: “The final report was written from the perspective of senior managers who want to see accounting efficiencies, not from the perspective of teachers and support staff who actually work with these students. Simplicity and efficiency for government may sound like a lofty goal, but the cost will be significant disruptions to teachers, students, and parents.”

Hansman said the main concern with the prevalence model is that it would increase inequities between students and strip services away from the most vulnerable children.

He said: “The prevalence model will lead to fewer special needs assessments and diagnoses. Without that information, teachers will lose valuable insights at the start of each year when they begin working with a new class. If there is no record of diagnosis and paperwork articulating the nature of a student’s disability or learning challenges, teachers will not be able to properly address that child’s needs as they move through different grades. This disconnection in the name of accounting efficiencies will hamstring teachers’ efforts to support all students.

“Moving to a prevalence model will also force parents to fight even harder for specialized supports and services. Families who can afford it will turn to outside psychologists to diagnose their children’s needs. But kids whose parents can’t afford it, or don’t have a parent pushing hard in the principal’s office, will be left behind.”


The resolution passed at the AGM

That the BCTF call upon cabinet and the provincial government as a whole to:

  1. terminate consideration of a prevalence model for special education funding.
  1. reform the provincial funding formula for operating grants to one based on the identified needs of school districts, an equitable distribution of resources, as well as the full mandate of the public education system.
  1. align special education funding with special education needs by closing the current gap between what school districts receive in special education funding and the much greater amount spent.
  1. dedicate funding for early identification and designations of students with special needs and for in-service for teachers.
  1. move ahead with significant enhancements to operational funding for K–12 beyond the funding increases associated with enrolment growth.