Posted on Feb 18, 2020

Students with complex needs hit by education cuts

Parents of students with complex needs are calling on UCP Education Minister Adriana LaGrange to maintain PUF per-pupil funding and fund growing student enrolment.

“My son’s school went from 4-5 EAs in a classroom with many kids with complex needs, to just 2 EAs,” said Stacey Speta, whose son attends Kindergarten in Black Gold School Division. “That’s a huge loss, and that responsibility falls to the teacher, and ultimately affects our children’s school experience in a negative way.”

In a special notice attached to Early Childhood Services registration forms this January, Black Gold School Division alerted parents to the possibility of impacts to services by the upcoming provincial budget and an altered school funding formula. Black Gold schools gained 397 students in 2019 but Minister LaGrange cut their budget by $643,000, according to Alberta Education documents obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request.

“My son is three, and he has autism, and he is in the first year of PUF funding,” said Emily MacKenzie, an Edmonton-area parent. “I am personally worried that if it’s not in place, it will really affect my son. It is such a crucial intervention to make sure he can communicate before he goes to school. I’m worried about the strange signals we are getting out of the UCP.”

Edmonton Public schools gained 3,422 students in 2019 while Minister LaGrange cut their budget by nearly $9.7 million.

“My message for the government is that if you spend the money up front, then you have a higher chance of students graduating school, and graduating into post-secondary and work, rather than graduating into AISH,” said Shantel Sherwood, parent of two PUF-funded students. “These cuts to supports are hurting people, and they are also costing more in the long run.”

“Alberta schools have more students and less funding, and parents of students with complex needs are watching their support vanish as a result,” said Sarah Hoffman, NDP Official Opposition Critic for Education. “Minister LaGrange’s spin and dishonesty can’t hide the fact that educational assistants are no longer in classrooms, just like she can’t hide the fact that classrooms are growing more crowded, bus rides are getting longer and parents are paying hundreds of dollars in additional fees.

“I’m calling on Minister LaGrange to stop hiding from parents, and to listen to their experiences. If she fails to provide adequate funding for students with complex needs in Budget 2020 and her revised funding model, it will cause profound and lasting harm in the lives of these children and their families.”