Central Alberta special needs get cash boost

The province has responded to the dire warnings of Central Alberta school divisions with a sizable chunk of change.

The province has responded to the dire warnings of Central Alberta school divisions with a sizable chunk of change.

A collective of nine school divisions in the central region called earlier this month for more provincial money for the provision of services such as speech pathology, physical therapy, and supports for students with visual and audial issues.

They said a change in the service funding model left them $1.4 million short, positing that the shortfall would create a “tragic” situation where students would have to go without necessary supports.

This week, the province committed nearly $1.4 million in additional funding to the regional boards. The collective will now have approximately $5.8 million to provide supports in 2014-15 for 900 students.

The regional group will now go to work hiring and contracting the services of roughly 40 special needs support workers.

Regional manager Terry Williamson said there will now not be any reduction in services next school year.

And under the new model, their provision should be more “effective and efficient.”

The new funding formula allocated monies not on actual student counts, but based on a series of modifiers — such as the number of aboriginal students, refugees and babies born with a low birth weight in a region.

The same model is used for supporting developmentally disabled students and works against the central school divisions in both cases.

But in both areas, the province has now pledged at least three years of transitional funding to keep the region at its pre-formula-change funding levels.

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