Extra education funding to help special needs students
School District 51 is one of two districts awarded extra funds to support special needs students and struggling readers.
Last week the Ministry of Education announced that the Boundary district will receive $199,288 to be used to help special needs students and an additional $27,478 to help struggling readers.
“School Districts 51 and 53 are receiving funding that will help them continue to provide quality education,” said Boundary-Similkameen MLA John Slater in a press release. “The situation with the B.C. Teachers’s Federation (BCTF) is far from ideal, but hopefully by putting strike money back into the system, we can get more help for special needs students and those needing more help with foundational skills.”
While the money comes as no surprise to Michael Strukoff, SD51 superintendent, it is welcome.
The district had been told about the money before the last public budget meeting in early April, but the ministry had not announced how that money could be spent.
The $199,288 is being given through the Learning Improvement Fund. It is a lot more than originally anticipated, said Strukoff. The fund was developed as a result of the BCTF objection to Bill 27 and Bill 28 a few years ago. The first year SD51 received $99,000 and they were anticipating the same amount again this year.
Instead they are getting an additional $100,000 which is percentage share of the $60 million — up an additional $37 million from last year’s fund which is what the province saved during the three-day strike in March.
“That was a bit of a bonus,” said Strukoff.
Next year might not be so much money due to a change coming in the way the Learning Improvement Fund is distributed.
“What will our share be next year is hard to say,” said Strukoff. “We would be happy if (the ministry) continued using the same formula because it would give us some stability.”
The way the $199,288 is spent is strictly targeted. Of the funds, 12.5 per cent goes to members of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) to be used for training and not for creating new jobs, said Strukoff. CUPE members include support staff and education assistants (EA). He said EAs are not paid to consult or plan with teachers during non classroom time. Teachers would like the extra planning time with their EAs to develop strategies to help those students the EAs are there to help, said Strukoff.
The spending plan for the Learning Improvement Fund,which has been approved by the SD51 Board of Education, must be submitted to the ministry by the end of October. While developing their plan, SD51 will consult with teachers and other stakeholders to ensure maximum benefit of the money.
The $27,478 was given through the B.C. Education Plan Fund.
“It’s a one-time grant and the money is to be used for professional development to improve the delivery of programs that support struggling literacy issues,” said Strukoff.
The money has no deadline and no plan has been developed for it yet.