Underfunding pushes Vancouver School Board to make huge cuts to ESL and special needs service, say teachers

    VANCOUVER, April 30 /CNW/ - "The province's funding formula and chronic
underfunding of school boards is hitting ESL students and children with
special needs the worst," says Glen Hansman, President of the Vancouver
Elementary School Teachers' Association. "Nowhere is that more apparent than
in the Vancouver School Board's proposed budget for next year."
    The VSB's proposed budget, which is set to be passed at tonight's Board
meeting at 7 p.m., includes the elimination of 35 FTE special education
assistants and 132.6 FTE teaching positions - the majority of which are
teachers of ESL and teachers for special needs learners.
    "Teachers in Vancouver do not blame the trustees for this situation,"
says Glen Hansman. "Adequate funding of the public education system is clearly
the responsibility of the provincial government. Unfortunately, what the
Ministry of Education provides in grants has not kept up with inflation, nor
does it recognize the true costs of running an urban school district with
diverse needs like Vancouver."
    Teachers also point to the Ministry's five-year-cap on funding for ESL
students as a major contributor to this problem. "Per-student funding for ESL
students has not increased in 11 years," says Glen Hansman. "And the money
that is received is limited to an ESL learner's first five years of support.
Not all ESL students are able to master the nuances of the English language in
five years!"
    Funding for autistic students is also a problem. "The Vancouver School
Board only received $16,000 per student with autism, a dollar amount that has
not increased in six years. That amount only pays for about half a Special
Education Assistant. What about the rest of the cost involved with providing
children with autism with proper support? The VSB spends twice the amount of
special education service than it receives from the government."
    Teachers are pleased with the number of parents who are speaking out on
the underfunding issue. "We encourage as many people to come out to this
evening's Board meeting to see what the final decision made by the Board turns
out to be," says Glen Hansman. "We hope they minimize the cuts, but realize
that they are in a tough spot that is not of their own creation."

For further information:

For further information: Glen Hansman, at (604) 873-8378
(Monday-Friday), (604) 813-5318 (cell), or glen@vesta.ca

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