Tuesday, October 4, 2011

BC government proposal for class composition is "rationing"

I hope no-one is fooled by the BC Government proposal to address class composition announced in yesterday's Throne speech. It is unfair, unequal, and perhaps unconstitutional. See the announcement here: http://www2.news.gov.bc.ca/news_releases_2009-2013/2011EDUC0082-001253.htm

The government has proposed a limited fund to address supporting students with special needs and class composition. The amount in the fund would be in the "tens" of millions. This is a far cry from the $275 million per year removed in 2002 (which is more like $330 million in today's dollars). It is insulting to both teachers and the students of BC that this government thinks it is OK to "remedy" their mistake with just one tenth the amount of funding. Probably the only reason there is any money on the table is because a BC Supreme Court found their actions in 2002 unconstitutional. But the courts also identified $275 million per year as the amount removed. If the government can afford $930 million on Smart Meters, then it can afford $330 million for students and public education.

Equally as problematic is the process of a "fund". In my view, once a child is designated with specific learning needs, they have a constitutional right to educational services that meet their specific learning needs. But in the "fund" model, a limited (and too small) amount of funding would be available so that only some of the students' needs would be met. Teachers and/or parents would have to "apply" for funding and state their case about why their situation was the "neediest". Under this model, some students would be denied services. Teachers and parents would have to spend time "making the case" for services AFTER they had already gone through the process of testing and designation and writing an individual education plan. Only some students and classrooms would be funded.

The School Act states that every individual education plan must be implemented. This is how it should be. Once specific needs have been identified and a plan to address those needs is developed, that plan should be fully funded in order to implement it properly. This includes a suitable classroom composition and class size to ensure the teacher has time to address the plan. It also includes adequate numbers of specialist teachers to provide individual one-on-one teaching.

Prior to the Liberals changing the special education funding formula and removing class size limits in 2002, this is basically how it worked. Different designations resulted in different levels of funding and often were specifically assigned to a particular child. Class size limits and class composition limits ensured that for every class, the variety of needs in the class and the size of the class was manageable for the teacher. Ratios of specialist teachers to students ensured each specialist teacher would have adequate time to spend with each student on their caseload.

When these protections were stripped away, students and teachers paid the price. Students no longer were automatically provided the services they needed. Teachers were overwhelmed with complex needs and larger classes and a massive increase in workload.

The government needs to ensure that every single child has their needs fully met. This cannot be done through a competitive "fund" that would end up serving only the "neediest". Such a system is simply the "rationing" of an inadequate provision of educational services. And such a competitive symptom will ultimately pit students, parents, teachers and administrators against each other, as each advocates for different sets of students. So on top of failing to provide adequate supports, this system would exacerbate relationships and create an unhealthy competitive climate.

Imagine the equivalent in health care. You are tested and identified with an illness. But your family doctor is forced to apply and "make the case" for you to receive specialist services from a limited "fund". We don't run our health care system this way and we shouldn't run our schools this way either.


  1. Oh, but that is exactly the case in health care.
    If I require a Rx that is not on the Pharmacare list, my family doctor has to make the case that I need it.
    It's the same to see some specialists... the family doctor has to make the case.

  2. Anonymous...getting the DESIGNATION is making the case for the need for services. That already happens. This would be like AFTER your doctor makes the case then only 10% of the referrals get service...only the WORST cases get service.

    Or if a medication came in limited supply and only the 10% of the sickest people got it, not everyone who legitimately needed it.

    Special ed funding has always been given based on an initial testing and assessment and designation by the Ministry.

  3. Christy Clark is negotiating through vague passages in the Throne Speech and George Abbott is bargaining through glib top-down ministerial announcements. But Gorgeous George has shown us some money, and there's way more where that came from.

    The money pot, as Tara says, is completely inappropriate; it is designed to drive students and families out of public schools once they lose the fight for scant funds. Teachers will never accept that and neither will parents.

    The Liberals are trying to once again monetize the basic demand--that they follow the judge's rule and restore the contract. Adrian Dix and the NDP education critic Robin Austin have pointed out the government's criminality in stripping contracts and breaking their own laws, and this is great. The next step for the NDP is to come out and publicly support that the 2002 contract has to be reinstated.

    And solidarity among our parent groups and other unions may not be as hard as one might think. Apart from the amazing events at Occupy Wall Street, where people are making new connections between disputes every day, BCers appear not very convinced that teachers need to be punished. The $175m offer may sound good to people who believe that teachers are just about the money. When that money is revealed as just a pot to feed the neediest children, however, such an appalling Dickensian image is just not in BC's imagination.

    I have been told, on 30 September at 14:50, by the BCPSEA's Facebook administrator that people who "focus on specific options available at this point is premature and simply intended, in our view, to generate anxiety."

    So essentially BCPSEA's PR team is dismissing anyone who thinks a lockout was ever near the table. Are these people for real?

    I'm feeling pretty optimistic and I think this optimism needs to be expressed with our own meetings with parents and other workers about the job action. People who want to save public education and stop the cuts need to start organizing themselves.