Manitoba NDP Leader Wab Kinew expressed concern today the Pallister government has reduced support for the most vulnerable students. He was joined by Arlene Reid, Winnipeg School Division Ward 7 Trustee and a mother of two special needs students.
“Funding for special needs is essential because it helps every student get the one-on-one attention they deserve in the classroom,” said Kinew. “We’ve seen the Pallister government try to deny their cuts in the past, but this is too important. He needs to reassure parents today that funding will not be reduced for students who need it most.”
Government documents obtained through freedom of information requests reveal funding levels for special needs supports across the province have been frozen for three years since 2016/17. In fact, while the total funding for special needs students was $76.8 million in 2016/17, documents reveal funding has been reduced to $76.3 million for this fiscal year—a $500,000 reduction.
According to documents, this funding was allocated to level two and three students, children with ‘severe to profound disabilities and programming needs’; they represent about 2-3% of all Manitoba students.
Kinew noted the provincial government has transitioned from an application-based funding model to a block funding model, a move initiated by the NDP and supported by families. However, according to the documents, the Pallister government’s actions have led to concerns from parents and “some school staff” who felt that “the student with level two or three funding had the ‘right’ to an EA and inaccurately perceived that funding was ended”.
“The feedback from parents noted in these documents suggests some students are losing their EA because of the Pallister government’s funding cut,” said Kinew. “We understand just how important an EA is to students with special needs and their families. The support they provide in the classroom helps all students and their teachers.”
Arlene Reid is the mother of two children with special needs and works with parents of special needs kids in her role as school trustee.
“I know what it’s like to raise a child with special needs and how important it is to have supports in the classroom,” said Reid. “I’m worried the Pallister government has reduced funding for the most vulnerable students when they should be increasing supports.”