Provincial funding changes may impact students with complex needs
CALGARY -- A group that works with students with special needs is concerned that changes to the government's funding formula could impact the quality of the supports they provide.
The Regional Collaborative Service Delivery (RCSD) program has Alberta Health Services (AHS) therapists working in classrooms with students who have mild, moderate, and severe delays.
The Health Sciences Association of Alberta (HSAA) who represents those therapists says the province has changed the funding model for the program. Now the $30 million allocated to AHS will go directly to Alberta Education and it's school boards.
Mike Parker, the president of HSAA, says the organization has 300 members who work with students spread over 17 regions in the province. He doesn’t know what the new funding model will look like.
"This $30 million subsidy is being removed and given to (Alberta) Education to general funding where school boards can’t even keep the lights on right now because of funding cuts," said Parker. "This $30 million moves into their coffers as a general revenue. Who's going to provide the service to those that need it the most?"
The Calgary Board of Education (CBE) says the provincial education funding model was updated earlier this spring and the new model includes the simplification of grants from 36 to 15. It says that will give more flexibility to school authorities to determine how best to invest taxpayer dollars.
"Due to these changes we have provided notice to a number of speech language pathologists (SLPs) and speech language assistants (SLAs) who have been identified for possible layoff," the CBE said in a written statement.
"We are not yet in a position to determine the specific number of individuals who will be laid off," it continued. "Speech language pathologists and speech language assistants provide important services and supports to our students."
"While we are trying to minimize the impact of these changes, it is important that we align our funding to the new provincial funding model," the statement concluded.
Colin Aitchison, the press secretary in the office of the Minister of Education, says every single school authority will be seeing an increase in their operational funding and they will receive the funding they need to support all of their students.
"If a school authority is choosing to change their support programming, such as speech language therapy and occupational therapy, that is a decision they have made independently despite seeing increases in government funding," Aitchison said in a written statement.
Brittany Oxton has four children between the ages of nine and one and a half. Her two middle boys struggle with speech. Oliver, 6, had many ear aches growing up that impacted his speech and four-year-old Levis has been diagnosed with apraxia. Oxton saw how Oliver excelled working with a therapist in his classroom.
"He wouldn’t be where he is today without the help that he got from the CBE program," said Oxton.
Oxton is hopeful her son will continue to get help when he starts Grade 2 in the fall.