Board chair wants province to 'fix the formula'

Last in special education funding, board asks MPPs to be "partners" to fund Peel students fairly

TORONTO, Dec. 3, 2013 /CNW/ - At their annual meeting on Dec. 2, trustees of the Peel District School Board acclaimed Janet McDougald, trustee for Mississauga wards 1 and 7, as chair. McDougald has been a trustee for 25 years, has served as chair for 16 years and was previously vice-chair for three years. Suzanne Nurse, trustee for Brampton wards 2 and 6, was acclaimed as vice-chair. Nurse is starting her eighth year in public office.

After detailing how Peel District School Board students are last of all Ontario school boards in special education high needs funding, the board chair launched a #FixTheFormula campaign. Noted McDougald, "I'm pleased to join my trustee colleagues in our priority for the province to fix the special education formula and fund Peel students fairly now. And this begins with the ideas of equity and fairness. We talk a lot about these ideas in terms of inclusion, access and opportunities. It is even in our mission, vision and values...we respect differences and treat everyone fairly and equitably...is a key character attribute."

Added McDougald, "But there's another way to look at fairness and equity—how we're funded as a board. Specifically, how we are funded—or not funded—for special education. Based on the reported needs, the High Needs Amount (HNA) grants range from a high of $1,700 per student at the top to a low of $339 at the very bottom. The unfortunate news—that very bottom amount is the Peel board funding."

"The HNA grant is a vital source of funding, and we are at the bottom. It is pretty clear that the process to calculate it is flawed. It's not scientifically based. It's out-of-date. It's not equitable or fair. Due to this flawed funding formula, we in the Peel board face a serious shortfall in special education funding. We need to fix the formula and fund Peel students fairly."

"There is some good news. The provincial government realizes that many school boards, not just Peel, find the special education funding formula unfair and there is a newer, more accurate statistical model. If we were just somewhere in the middle of pack, we estimate that we would receive an additional $14 to $16 million in funding. We think that using the prediction model would put us right about there."

"With another $14 to $16 million each and every year, our $14 million shortfall disappears (interesting that these two amounts are the same). Our spending would be inside the funding envelope. That would eliminate the pressure we feel to cut away at other budgets. In fact, by fixing the formula we could do so much more—for example, have greater flexibility with busing, or upgrade more sports fields or even provide more staff to support student needs. And that helps all students."

"All of this is possible. The province can fund Peel students fairly. The fix to the broken funding formula is there. The province just has to use it," noted McDougald. "I want to assure the community—and our political representatives—that this is not an adversarial process. Our MPPs were key players in helping to increase our Learning Opportunities Grant, and we will be going out to them before School Council sessions in the new year to specifically ask for their help, as our partners, in helping to fix the formula. I know we can count on their support."

View the complete text of McDougald's and Director of Education Tony Pontes' remarks.

SOURCE Peel District School Board

For further information:

Media contact: Janet McDougald, Chair, Peel District School Board, 905-278-1402, janet.mcdougald@peelsb.com

Reference: Kayla Tishcoff, School Communications Specialist, Peel District School Board, 905-890-1010 ext. 2239, kayla.tishcoff@peelsb.com