Support for special needs education in decline

A new report on special needs education has found the level of government support has actually declined since Alberta Education released its 2009 framework for inclusive education.

A new report on special needs education has found the level of government support has actually declined since Alberta Education released its 2009 framework for inclusive education.

The report from an eight-member panel established by the Alberta Teachers’ Association recommended that the government provide immediate, targeted, substantial and sustained funding for inclusive education.

Other recommendations were more clear and consistent communications, more time and professional development for teachers, the conducting of regular research on inclusive education and the establishment of advisory committees at all levels (provincial, school board and school) to guide successful implementation.

Marc Arnal, chair of the Blue Ribbon Panel on Inclusive Education in Alberta Schools, said the increasing number of students with special needs combined with the lack of a cohesive implementation strategy from government is causing problems.

He said the frustrating part is that government did a wonderful job defining the parameters of inclusive education, and that was it.

“They have the system-wide responsibility for the overall education system. To just turn to jurisdictions and say, ‘here’s some money, just sort it out,’ I think is kind of an abdication of their role,” said Arnal, the former dean of Campus Saint-Jean at the University of Alberta, on Wednesday after the release of the report.

He said it’s not just a matter of funding. It’s important to develop and monitor plans.

“As long as you don’t hold a firm light on the subject it’s hit and miss and everybody is doing their own thing. Some are doing wonderful things, but nobody is able to benefit from the experience of those wonderful things,” Arnal said.

At Red Deer Public Schools, the inclusive classroom model reduced the number of students in special needs classrooms from 461 in 2010-11 to 118 students in 2013-14. The district believes that some students still need the highly specialized support those classrooms offer.

In 2010-11, a total of 1,050 students received supports, including those in special needs classrooms. In 2013-14, the district had a total of 2,018 students requiring extra support.

Each school in the district has a learning assistance team to support students with diverse learning needs in regular classrooms.

Piet Langstraat, Red Deer Public Schools superintendent, said this year the district received about $10.5 million from the province for special needs students and the district spent $15.8 million by taking money away from other programming.

He said $4 million is equal to about 40 teachers.

“There are certainly funding issues. We are spending $16 million out of a $110 million budget specifically on this area,” Langstraat said.

“We need to look for ways to increase those supports to continue to provide professional development, to provide research on the successes that are occurring for students in this model. What really matters at the end of the day is whether they are being more successful.”

Teacher Carrie Luckwell, of Annie L. Gaetz Elementary School, was a member of the Blue Ribbon Panel.

Kathleen Finnigan, associate superintendent of inclusive learning at Red Deer Catholic Regional School Division, said teachers, parents and senior administration are committed to inclusion, but the government needs to be committed too.

“That means financial commitment, but also these other key recommendations of professional development, regular research, advisory committees to help us with implementation of inclusion,” Finnigan said.

“Our classrooms are becoming more diverse. It could be a result of our influx of ESL, globalization, parents preferring inclusive education instead of other special programs.”

Red Deer Catholic superintendent Paul Mason said any additional funding for special needs students would be appreciated because it is needed.

“We are dipping into the funding we receive for our regular students in order to meet the increasingly complex needs of students that we’re seeing in our classes on a daily basis,” Mason said.

Just Posted

WATCH: Rappelling down Red Deer’s Stantec Building a thrilling, scary experience

Advocate reporter chronicles his trip down the 13-storey buildling

Red Deer raises $60,000 for Make-A-Wish Foundation

27 brave residents rappell down Stantec Building

People hurt in rollover near Red Deer

Occupants of a vehicle that rolled south of Hwy 11A were airlifted… Continue reading

Eager-beaver cannabis entrepreneurs already waiting outside Red Deer City Hall

Appications will be accepted on a first-come basis starting on Tuesday

Like father like son: Red Deer area Dreeshen family dedicates life to public service

There are three jobs that could be considered the Dreeshen family business:… Continue reading

WATCH: Gazebo groundbreaking in Waskasoo

Fifty per cent of the $100,000 project is funded by a provincial government grant

Woman killed in collision near Olds

A woman is dead after a collision west of Olds Saturday afternoon.… Continue reading

Evacuation numbers remain at nearly 1,000 as B.C. wildfires rage on

SUMMERLAND, B.C. — Officials in British Columbia’s Okanagan region hope that fire… Continue reading

Survivors recount deadly Missouri duck boat sinking

BRANSON, Mo. — “Grab the baby!” Those were the last words Tia… Continue reading

HMCS St. John’s to return to Halifax after six-month deployment overseas

HALIFAX — The countdown is on for the homecoming of a Halifax-class… Continue reading

Trump says lawyer taping him may be ‘illegal’

BRIDGEWATER, N.J. — The Latest on President Donald Trump and his onetime… Continue reading

Spieth part of 3-way tie for British lead as Woods lurks

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland — Jordan Spieth has a share of the lead in… Continue reading

WWII hero’s lost Purple Heart returned to his family

NEW YORK — A lost Purple Heart medal has been returned to… Continue reading

California girl, 2, accidentally shot and killed by boy, 4

SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. — Authorities say a 4-year-old boy accidentally shot and… Continue reading

Most Read

Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $185 for 260 issues (must live in delivery area to qualify) Unlimited Digital Access 99 cents for the first four weeks and then only $15 per month Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $15 a month