Fair educational funding for children with special needs

Last week, social policy scholars and researchers at Cardus, a non-partisan, not-for-profit public policy think tank focused on social policy issues such as education, family, work and economics, social cities, end-of-life care, and religious freedom, released a research paper entitled “Funding Fairness for Students in Ontario with Special Education Needs”.

The report pointed out a fundamental unfairness in Ontario’s funding of education for children with special learning needs. The executive summary of the Cardus report delineates the structural bias within Ontario’s policy. “Currently education funding for students with special education needs is based on the school attended rather than the special needs of the child.” GAJE has also frequently pointed to this very same discrimination.

“Currently students with special needs receive special education funding only if they attend a public government school,” the Cardus report states. “Students whose parents choose an independent non-government school for their children with special needs—often because the school more closely aligns with the family’s religious, philosophical or pedagogical convictions—are barred from receiving education funding for their special needs.”

In Ontario, in the year 2019, such unequal treatment is unconscionable.

The Cardus research paper not only exposes and condemns the discriminatory educational funding policy, it also provides figures for the expenditure required to bring some measure of fairness to students with special education needs who attend an independent non-government school. 

The report recommends Ontario” provide equitable funding for students with special needs in independent schools by supplying their schools with up to 75 percent of the level of support government-run schools get in this area. With an estimated maximum of 34,500 students receiving help, this would cost the provincial treasury about $195 million.”

“It is indefensible that in this modern era, we still discriminate against students living with a disability,” says Ray Pennings, Cardus executive vice-president and report co-author. “Services for students living with a disability should be based on need and not on the school the child attends.”

“Providing equitable access to equipment and services to all students living with a disability is a matter of basic fairness that will enable all Ontario children to learn, thrive, and succeed,” says report co-author and Cardus senior fellow Dr. Deani Van Pelt. “Adjusting Ontario’s outdated policy will help the province achieve greater inclusion and equity.”

GAJE agrees. The discrimination is inexcusable. Ontario should always stand for and embody inclusion, equity and fairness.

The full Cardus report is available on the Cardus website at:

https://www.cardus.ca/research/education/reports/funding-fairness-for-students-in-ontario-with-special-education-needs/

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Shabbat Shalom.

GAJE

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