In the recent 2014 provincial budget, the floundering PC government has promised a flurry of pre-election spending financed in large part by borrowing up to one billion dollars.
Clearly, the PCs hope that this latest round of spending charged on the credit card of the next generation of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians will help them cling to enough seats to hold on to government.
While the budget is not lacking in pre-election spending promises, one glaring oversight is the continued failure to provide the resources needed to support the Department of Education’s inclusion model in schools. Despite calls for help from parents and teachers, there is little new funding provided in Budget 2014 to ensure that children with special needs and their classroom peers get the attention they deserve.
In 2010, the government forced an underfunded inclusion model onto the province’s education system with little consultation with parents, educators or disabilities advocates.
This was followed up last year with cuts to school administration positions and the elimination of 160 teaching positions — many of these were teachers who provided support to children with special education needs.
And yet, despite the shameless and self-congratulatory hoopla we have seen from government MHAs, there have been no changes made to the teacher allocation formula to provide a necessary increase in the numbers of instructional resource teachers who work with students with special needs. And, while lack of sufficient guidance resources are causing students to be wait-listed for up to a year before they finally receive in-school assessments to determine their educational needs, the minister of education continues to ignore the recommendation of the teacher allocation commission to increase guidance resources in schools.
If the current administration is genuinely interested in demonstrating a clear commitment to inclusion in the education system, the first step would be to reverse last year’s decision to cut 160 teaching positions. This should be followed up with the sufficient number of teachers, guidance counsellors and school administrators needed to adequately resource government’s inclusion model. The glaring absence of these measures in Budget 2014 fails all of our students.
MHA for St. John’s North