A Central Alberta school division is appealing to the provincial government to address a funding shortfall for an important program that helps the region’s most vulnerable students.
Kurt Sacher, superintendent Chinook’s Edge School Division, said Thursday that they have received confirmation that nearly $1 million will be cut from the Regional Collaborative Service Delivery (RCSD) program for school districts throughout Central Alberta.
The funding supports students with special needs, many with complex and severe needs. RCSD is viewed as key to their success at school, home and in the community. The partnership, which began in 2013, involves Alberta Education, Alberta Health Services, Community and Social Services, and Children’s Services.
The severity of the needs of vulnerable students is increasing beyond the resources available, even before the current budget reductions, Sacher said.
The formula that the province uses to determine the amount of funding is flawed, he said, adding he believes it has affected Central Alberta unfairly compared with other parts of Alberta.
“To be blunt, we really believe the government has dropped the ball on this one.”
“It’s not just the parents of the vulnerable children who should be concerned,” Sacher said.
Teachers have a challenging enough job as it is, and when they need assistance to address the needs of a vulnerable student, and they don’t have it, it takes away from their ability to deal with the rest of their students, Sacher said.
Support through the RCSD program could come in the form of speech pathologists, mental health therapists, or nurses, he said.
“If speech and language issues are addressed early, you have a lifetime of success, and the reverse is true if you don’t have the resources,” he said.
“We finally had kids off of waiting lists (for mental health support). It’s been a constant challenge for us and we’re worried those wait lists will start going back up again.”
“The government is trying to navigate in difficult economic times and we understand that … we just really believe they’ve triaged the wrong area of funding out of the envelope. … This should have been higher up on the priority list.”
Chinook’s Edge has been advocating strongly for the province to not cut the funding, and with other Central Alberta school divisions, has requested an opportunity to meet and work with the provincial government on the matter.
The cuts will affect the next school year so there’s still time for the province to restore the funding, Sacher said.