NDP say students with complex needs hit hard by education cuts

by Morinville News Staff

Parents of students with complex needs are calling on UCP Education Minister Adriana LaGrange to maintain PUF per-pupil funding and fund growing student enrolment.

Stacey Speta, whose son attends Kindergarten in Black Gold School Division, said her son’s school went from four or five educational assistants to just two.

“That’s a huge loss, and that responsibility falls to the teacher, and ultimately affects our children’s school experience in a negative way,” Speta said in a Feb. 18 NDP press release

Black Gold School Division alerted parents in January of the possible impacts on services by the upcoming provincial budget and an altered school funding formula.

The NDP, citing a Freedom of Information Act request, says Black Gold schools gained 397 students in 2019 but Minister LaGrange cut their budget by $643,000.

Emily MacKenzie, an Edmonton area parent said her three-year-old son has autism and is in the first year of PUF funding.

“I am personally worried that if it’s not in place, it will really affect my son,” MacKenzie said. It is such a crucial intervention to make sure he can communicate before he goes to school. I’m worried about the strange signals we are getting out of the UCP.”

The NDP says Edmonton Public schools gained 3,422 students in 2019 while Minister LaGrange cut their budget by nearly $9.7 million.

“Alberta schools have more students and less funding, and parents of students with complex needs are watching their support vanish as a result,” said NDP Official Opposition Critic for Education Sarah Hoffman. “Minister LaGrange’s spin and dishonesty can’t hide the fact that educational assistants are no longer in classrooms, just like she can’t hide the fact that classrooms are growing more crowded, bus rides are getting longer and parents are paying hundreds of dollars in additional fees.

“I’m calling on Minister LaGrange to stop hiding from parents, and to listen to their experiences. If she fails to provide adequate funding for students with complex needs in Budget 2020 and her revised funding model, it will cause profound and lasting harm in the lives of these children and their families.”

In their funding model changes to K-12, the UCP says they are committed to maintaining funding for the most vulnerable students, including PUF.

The government will table the 2020 Budget on Feb. 27.

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