WHERE IS THE MONEY GOING?
Every school district in the province receives $18,850 annually from the BC Ministry of Education for each student designated as autistic, to be used for in-school intervention and services. So with that funding going into the school board, why do parents and teachers say their kids aren’t getting the support they need?
“The money comes in to hire support staff. So if $19,000 is coming in per student, the average cost of an employee would be about $36,000 to $40,000. So right there is the deficit. If we’re only getting paid $40,000 and the student is only bringing in [roughly] $20,000, then there is going to be a definite deficit.”
“A school-based team at each school identifies the needs for each autistic child and communicates with the school board on allocation of resources to meet the needs of that kid. So an autistic child in one school may not look or need the same kind of support that an autistic child in another school might need.”
“I know how the system goes. The government gives the $19,000 to the district, and the district is going to distribute it with the school, and then the school is going to distribute it to the kids – even kids who don’t have a diagnosis…Kenneth is high functioning – he will never see the funding.”
“It is the responsibility of locally elected boards of education and Independent school authorities to establish priorities and to allocate funding for all students within their district, including those with special needs.”
Essentially, the money gets conglomerated into a fund the school district can use in whichever way they feel is best. It doesn’t go directly into services for each specific designated child.
Plotado’s designation has brought $18,850 to the school district for three years in a row. But he’s seen his level of support decreased to zero this year — even though his funding remains the same.
Ministry of Education spokesperson Craig Sorochan says school districts have “considerable autonomy” in deciding how they spend the money (including organizing classes, assigning specialist teachers, hiring educational assistants or other supports based on identified student needs, and accessing resources available in their district).
“They can use the money how they see the best fit is for the district and that does not necessarily mean hiring more EA’s. And sometimes, over the last 16 years anyway, up until the last budget I guess, we have lost EA’s in the Vancouver school district.” — Warren Williams, President, CUPE15 Vancouver
But Jesse Brown, the Vice Principal of Walter Moberly Elementary, says the money isn’t enough to begin with, resulting in a deficit of educational assistants, and additions to the loads of already overworked teachers.