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A note from your teachers

A report from the BCTF to the members
of the legislative assembly


March 31, 2008
Number 25

Inclusion of students with special needs

“Inclusion is the value system which holds that all students are entitled to equitable access to learning, achievement and the pursuit of excellence in all aspects of their education. The practice of inclusion transcends the idea of physical location, and incorporates basic values that promote participation, friendship and interaction.”

Source: BC Ministry of Education. Manual of Policies, Procedures, and Guidelines for Special Education Services.

BC teachers believe that students with special needs have a right to be integrated into the regular classroom and that this experience prepares them for full citizenship in a democratic society. Social benefits accrue to all students in inclusive settings particularly social and communication skills, friendship networks, and community attitudes.

“If our children learn in the classroom to be accepting of those with differences, it can only make for a better world out there.  If we fail to achieve this, then we have a situation of tolerance and tolerance is putting up with, it's not acceptance.”   – Elementary special education assistant

“My child and others need an enormous amount of support with educational matters, emotional and behavioural matters in order to succeed and have their self worth intact. Otherwise, what does the future hold for them having minimal reading and writing skills?” – Parent of a secondary student with special needs

Two things teachers need to make inclusion successful

  1. A limit to the size of the class and to the number of students with special needs in any one classroom.
  2. Support for students with special needs when they are integrated.

Teachers can not sustain specialized teaching with more than 30 kids in the class. This year, over 3,000 classes in our province had more than 30 students enrolled in their classes. More than 10,000 classes had four or more students with individual education plans. Yet it would only cost $17,343,148 to honour the class-size number promised in Bill 33 and $102,634,389 to reduce to three the number of students with special needs in any one classroom.
           

Estimated cost of meeting class-size limit of 30 students (Grades 4 to 12) in BC public schools

  Estimated # classes with >30 Estimated # students in classes >30 # Additional classes & teachers required for all classes Estimated cost to meet Bill 33 class-size limit
Grades 4 to 7 164 830 27.7 $1,769,448
Grades 8 to 12 3,015 7,315 243.8 15,573,700
Total 3,179 8,145 271.5 $17,343,148

Estimated cost of ensuring all students with an IEP are in classes with three or fewer students (as required by Bill 33)

 

# Classes >=4 IEP students

Estimated # students with IEP affected # Extra classes & teachers required to meet <=30 IEP students Estimated cost to meet Bill 33 limit of <=3 IEP students
Grades K to 3 141 141 47.0 $ 3,002,313
Grades 4 to 7 3,764 3,764 1,254.7 80,148,981
Grades 8 to 12 6,408 915 305.0 19,483,095
Total 10,313 4,820 1,606.7 $102,634,389

Between 2001 and 2007, BC public schools lost nearly 1,000 specialist teachers, including special education teachers, teacher-librarians, ESL teachers, and counselors primarily because districts were underfunded. Even adjusting for a decline in enrolment, the cost to restore those positions to 2001–02 levels would be $63,217,214.

The total cost to return BC schools to 2001 levels is well below the $440 million the government is giving away in individual $100 grants this spring.

Loss of FTE specialist teaching positions—2001–02 and 2006–07

Program

Net loss FTE teachers (01–02 to 06–07)

% Loss FTE teachers (01–02 to 06–07) # FTE teachers to restore to 2001–02 levels (Adjusted for enrolment decline) Estimated cost to restore positions
Special education -608.62 15% 572.10 $36,545,176
Library services -175.23 19% 164.72 10,522,149
English as a 2nd language -186.63 18% 175.43 11,206,293
Counselling -82.33  8% 77.39 4,943,596
Total -1,052.81   989.64 $63,217,214

 

“Twice a year we look at all of our students who required support and try to address their needs through the programs our team offers. Every time, we come up short. For example, last September we had 30 students that we couldn't support and this year 37 have been left out.” – Elementary resource teacher

“When I first started at the school, I had 12 students to monitor in about 14 subject areas. Today I monitor, read to and scribe for 34 identified students and 30 learning assistance students in about 30 subject areas.” – Secondary special education assistant

“My greatest concern is my inability to take a more proactive approach in my school. I am able to serve the 29 students requiring individual education plans (IEPs), but am lacking in time to work with those students who would benefit from learning assistance. I am particularly concerned about catching the primary students struggling in their skill development. If they are not supported early on, they may become disillusioned with school and could, over time, develop self-esteem issues, which may create more problems in their education as time goes on.”  – Elementary resource teacher

We can pay now or pay later

The children we educate will grow up to become the citizens of tomorrow. Whether we have school-aged children or not, we all have a stake in maintaining a healthy public education system—because if we do not we will all suffer the consequences.

Dr. Shirley McBride, in her comments to the Langley Special Education inquiry, said, “Society has a choice: you can pay now or you pay later. When teachers do not have time to spend with vulnerable children who have emotional or behavioural difficulties, these students are less likely to become grounded in their relationships within the school. Without the resources to help, schools are more likely to suspend or expel students. These students then seek attachments elsewhere, on the street where they may become a ready supply of candidates for gangs. Obviously this has implications for the entire community.”

Many homeless young people have learning disabilities that have not been properly identified and treated. Many adolescent suicides are the result of learning disabilities that have not been properly identified. Much of the substance abuse amongst adolescents is the result of learning disabilities that have not been adequately identified and treated.

Early intervention is crucial for students with learning difficulties. When we put the money and the resources into reducing the size of the class and providing specialist support in the regular classroom all children, but especially students with learning disabilities, benefit. When children with unique emotional, behavioural, and learning needs receive appropriate support, they can flourish, feel respected and grow up to be happy, responsible members of society.

Between 2001 and 2007, BC public schools lost nearly 1,000 specialist teachers, including special education teachers, teacher-librarians, ESL teachers, and counsellors primarily because districts were underfunded. Even adjusting for a decline in enrolment, the cost to restore those positions to 2001–02 levels would be $63,217,214. 

The total cost to return BC schools to 2001 levels is well below the $440 million the government is giving away in individual $100 grants this spring.

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