The following letter was sent to the Roundtable reps and raises several critical issues regarding the crisis in education that has existed long before October 7th, 2005.
Dear Education Roundtable representatives,
In 1999, the province commissioned an independent Review of Special Education in reaction to widespread concerns that special education was in crisis at that time. That review received numerous submissions, including one from BCCPAC that highlighted provincial underfunding of special ed and the threat this posed to inclusive education, with local school boards and their staff ill-equipped and failing to live up to provincial special education policies. In 2001, the report of this Review was almost entirely ignored by the incoming government, which instituted far reaching changes, including funding policies that forced deep cuts at the local level, greatly aggravating the existing challenges in special education. As the BC Association for Community Living (BCACL) memo copied below illustrates, those changes have taken things from bad to worse, threatening inclusion and posing a very real crisis for children with developmental disabilities and other special needs.
Successive NPA and COPE School Boards in Vancouver have repeatedly documented how this funding gap forces them to divert millions intended for general education, thus hurting all students. The BCTF has consistently highlighted this concern, making it a focal point of the recent job action. And while BCCPAC has been less vocal in recent years, its members have continued to pass numerous resolutions expressing concern about underfunding of special education and other special learning needs. In 2004, even MLAs representing the current government urged their leaders to restore funding for special education in the report of their budget review committee. That the crisis identified by special education advocates in the late 1990s has deepened, becoming chronic and systemic and ever more daunting does not make it any less a crisis!
Regrettably, the Minister has seen fit to selectively represent the provincial parent voice at the new roundtable, and to exclude any voices that can speak purely for students with special learning needs at a table where this is clearly a central issue. This places an added responsibility on those appointed to the roundtable to represent all students in our education system, regardless of your organizational goals and policies or member priorities. You have been given an opportunity to stop the appalling betrayal of our most vulnerable students by acknowledging and addressing the central and undeniable role of consistent provincial underfunding in the crisis that faces so many of our students with special learning needs, including ESL and Aboriginal students and other children with unique needs today. As the parent of a child with special needs and advocate who has accompanied many other parents through their own children’s individual school crises, I urge that you seek outside support and input if necessary to accomplish this, so that we can address this crisis promptly and restore the promise of inclusive education once and for all.
Parent of a child with special needs, David Livingstone Elementary (a non-BCCPAC member), Vancouver.
CC: Vancouver DPAC; SOS; BCSPE; BCACL; Opposition Education Critic John Horgan;