Across Ontario and across the country, schools and Ministries of Education continue to debate the best ways to serve students with special needs.
Our research shows that across the province, the number of students on special education waiting lists has declined from a high of 48,000 in 2003/04, to a low of approximately 31,000 this year. But this still represents a huge number of children waiting to be assessed or to receive appropriate identification or support.
Because assessments must be conducted by a limited number of school board psychologists, many boards and schools report they must ration their assessments or only put those students in the highest need on waiting lists.
But there’s more to the debate than the number of students waiting for support. Recent Ministry of Education consultations (which are discussed in more detail in our newsletter) raised a number of other questions:
• How can the Ministry develop a method of funding special education that reflects the actual needs of students?
• How can and should the Ministry define and measure success in special education programs? Are EQAO tests a valid way to measure effectiveness?
• How can the Ministry and school boards ensure that all students who need special education support receive it in a timely and equitable fashion?
• How can the Ministry ensure consistency from board to board, so that parents and kids don’t have to go through multiple special education processes if they move?
All of these questions need answers. And they all feed into the biggest question of all:
How should we define success overall in our education system, and how can we ensure that all students in all boards have access to the broad range of programs, curriculum and support they need to succeed, not only in school, but in their lives?
People for Education has information and resources about Special Education.
Join our special education group in our online community.
Many parents are looking forward to the first day of school next week, but it may bring with it requests for money. Ontario schools rely on fundraising, donations, user fees and other charges to augment provincial funding. In fact, school boards in this province report their schools raise over half a billion dollars in “school-generated funds,” a combination of fundraising, fees, corporate donations, and things like vending machines and cafeterias.
Despite this reliance, Ontario currently has no provincial policy over things like what schools and boards may fundraise for, which fees are acceptable, and which resources must be provided free of charge.
Alongside regular fundraising, and charges for things like field trips, parents across the province pay for everything from student activities to science classes in their children’s schools.
In high school, students not only pay student activity fees, but in many cases they must pay fees for labs and materials and for after-school sports. Our research shows that the average student activity fee is $37, a 55% increase since 2001. Participating in athletics costs even more.
Increased reliance on fees and fundraising inevitably leads to a system of “have” and “have not” schools, as evidenced by the wide range in school fundraising totals – from $0 to $200,000. For some parents, the combination of fees and the pressure to participate in fundraising can be experienced as a form of exclusion or built-in inequity. People for Education is once again calling on the province to articulate a vision for education that outlines what things should be available to all students in every school, at no extra charge. Once the overall vision has been established, then it will be possible to identify the “extras” that might be funded by fees, fundraising and corporate partnerships.
You can read our report on fundraing and fees here.
65% of the public and 73% of parents, give Ontario schools an “A” or “B” grade.
“The 17th OISE Survey shows public views of Ontario schools have markedly improved since the years of discord in the late 1990s and early years of the 21st century,” said Doug Hart, co-author of the survey with D. W. Livingstone.