Boards of Education
New report released on Ontario public schools
A major report has been released by People for Education regarding publicly funded schools in Ontario. Every year for the past 15 years, Ontario principals and parents have filled out annual public school surveys. Their work is the basis of this report.
This year"s Annual Report on Ontario"s Publicly Funded Schools shows that there have been some improvements in Ontario schools in 2011, but poverty and systemic inequalities continue to have far reaching effects on Ontario students.
Torstar Network article: June 1, 2011
Special ed funding falling short
With a major report coming out today on special education in Ontario, the chair of the Peel District School Board is appealing once again for more equitable funding as it struggles to provide help for its most vulnerable students.
Schools in low-income neighbourhoods in Ontario have waiting lists for special education services that are twice as long as those in more affluent schools, and the help those students receive is more likely to be inadequate, says a province-wide report to be released today.
"The average number of children on special-education waiting lists in high-poverty schools (10) is more than double the average number of children (four) per low-poverty school," says the study by People for Education, a research and advocacy group that compared special education services and school demographics.
The report also says "28 per cent of high-poverty schools report they have identified students who are not receiving the recommended support, again, double the percentage of low-poverty schools."
The group"s executive director, Annie Kidder, said the findings are troubling, given that public education is supposed to be equitable.
"Waiting lists for special education are hugely problematic," Kidder said. "Ten sounds like a small number of students to have on a waiting list, but when you multiply that by the number of schools in Ontario, it"s significant."
As for reasons why the wait lists would be longer and the services often inadequate, Kidder said it"s a "worrying possibility" that parents in more affluent areas may have a higher level of comfort with the system that allows them to advocate for their kids, or even pay out-of-pocket for private assessments.
The report says some large urban boards, such as Peel and the Dufferin-Peel Catholic system, also dipped into other areas of their budgets to cover special education.
In 2010-11, the Peel public board received $159 million, but spent almost $175 million.
That"s in part because the province is using outdated census figures to establish most of the funding, said board chair Janet McDougald.
The Peel board has experienced an enrollment boom in recent years, and funding simply hasn"t matched needs. Peel"s own figures show that, on a per-capita basis, it receives the least special-education funding in Ontario.
"This is obviously disturbing for us," said McDougald. The Mississauga Wards 1 and 7 trustee is hoping the board will find the resources to hire someone to work with schools and help coordinate mental-health treatment with community agencies.
"We are seeing children with depression and those kinds of mental health issues as young as 4," she said.
Her concerns echo those of a growing number of educators.
A new network of 26 provincial groups including hospitals, school boards, student groups and children"s aid societies, calls mental health the No. 1 issue in schools today.
Mike Feenstra, spokesperson for Education Minister Leona Dombrowsky, said the province has increased special-education funding and is still working with boards to ensure students needs are met.
The province allotted some $2.2 billion to Ontario"s school boards for special education in 2009-10.
People for Education found that almost all boards – 67 of 72 – spend $174 million more in total on special education than the province provides, with five of the biggest boards, including Peel, spending more than $10 million each.
(c) 2011 Metroland Printing, Publishing & Distributing
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