THE Vancouver Elementary School Teachers Association, the Vancouver Secondary Teachers’ Association and CUPE 15 support workers on Friday in a joint statement called on the Ministry of Education and the Vancouver School District “to commit to properly funding and staffing inclusive education and ensuring the meaningful, equitable inclusion of all of our diverse learners.”
Here is their statement:
Teachers and support staff in Vancouver schools care deeply about inclusion and the full participation of students in our classes. We are committed to ensuring that our classrooms are responsive to the diverse and exceptional learning needs of all students. Today, we stand together calling on the Vancouver School Board and the Ministry of Education to increase funding and staffing supports for students.
Schools are diverse, active and dynamic places, and public schools are proud of our mandate to serve all learners and to create learning spaces that embrace and welcome all students. Teachers and support staff do our part to ensure that barriers to student participation and learning are addressed, and that our inclusive schools embrace diversity. Our schools and society are better for it.
We want to see students receiving the supports they need and deserve. Increasingly, we are finding that the support is not regularly provided, resulting in untenable classroom situations, concerns about health and safety, and challenges in providing fully adapted and equitably accessible education for all.
For more than a decade, school districts received far less than what they spent on special education from provincial special education grants. Teaching and Support Staff desperately need increased funding for resources and supports for students with special needs, early identification and support, the provision of appropriate support programs, and the training and recruitment of teaching and support staff is essential to address the impact of insufficiently supported inclusion. Inequity impacts everyone.
BC teachers and support staff have risen to the challenge of the COVID-19 pandemic, even as it has taken its toll. The sentiment that “this has been the hardest year of my teaching career,” has echoed across the province, with significant impacts on physical and mental health. Already acute recruitment and retention challenges have been exacerbated. Staffing shortages in both teaching and support roles need to be addressed, but so do the increasing workload demands, accountability measures that don’t translate into support for students, and long waits for assessments and designations. Additional challenges include the de-designation of students who previously were entitled to learning supports and now go without.
Teachers and support staff are worried about their students and are keenly aware that an already underfunded public education system is further buckling under the strain of unmet needs. These needs are not bounded by the school bell; they are entangled in the deeper societal and economic crisis that the COVID-19 pandemic has amplified.
Teachers and support workers are also on the front-line of witnessing what is needed to move BC from a crisis response to a longer-term—and public-led—recovery and reconstruction effort.
We call on the Ministry of Education and the Vancouver School District to commit to properly funding and staffing inclusive education and ensuring the meaningful, equitable inclusion of all of our diverse learners. We’ve been making do with less for far too long, and so have our students, and our frustration seeing students go without the supports they need – and deserve – has reached a crisis point.