In responding to the report of the Minister’s Review of Services for Students with Special Needs, AIMS is encouraging the Nova Scotia Department of Education to stay the course on their efforts to expand the options available to children with special needs.
The call to end the Tuition Support Program (TSP) is of particular and far reaching concern not only to students and parents of special needs children, but to everyone with a stake in educating children in Nova Scotia. It is also inconsistent with the Department’s history of innovative responses in this area. Not only is the rationale presented by the committee for its recommendation unreasonable, there is overwhelming evidence that the program should in fact be expanded.
Whose education is this anyway?, a Commentary written by AIMS acting President Charles Cirtwill and Senior Policy Analyst Bobby O’Keefe, points out the shortcomings in the Review Committee’s analysis suggesting the TSP is not an appropriate part of publicly funded education in Nova Scotia. Instead, the Commentary indicates that the TSP is only inappropriate if the context of “publicly funded” education is redefined to mean “publicly operated”. Nova Scotia’s Education Act contains no provision that publicly funded education must be publicly operated.
In Nova Scotia, privately operated schools have been able to provide better educational and social results for special needs students. They are also more responsive to the needs of these students and are better able to leverage resources beyond the reach of publicly operated schools. As a result, the TSP represents the best and most efficient means to meet our collective duty to deliver quality education to every child.
In light of the analysis, Whose education is this anyway? also supplies a five point plan for expanding and improving the TSP:
Expand TSP beyond the maximum three years of funding currently available;
Test students at regular intervals to determine whether the student is ready to return a publicly operated school, rather than current approach which is to test after three years in order to determine how to reintegrate the student, whether they are ready or not;
Streamline the process for applying for funding;
Streamline the appeals process for students turned down by the TSP; and
Actively encourage the formation of designated special needs schools in areas of the province not currently served by such a school.
Expansion of the program in this manner not only allows special needs students to thrive in educational and social environments that best meet their needs, but also serves the interests of the public by providing a net fiscal and learning benefit to publicly operated schools.
To read this compete Commentary, click here.