Teachers strike could financially devastate families with special needs kids
Published Thursday, August 21, 2014 3:12PM PDT
Last Updated Thursday, August 21, 2014 7:43PM PDT
The mother of an eight-year-old boy with special needs says she will be financially devastated if the ongoing B.C. teachers’ strike continues into the school year.
Anne Belanger’s son is physically disabled, and the Ministry of Education funds a full-time one-on-one educational assistant to be with him when he’s in the classroom.
While classes are out for the summer, funding is provided by the Ministry of Child and Family Development to supplement regular childcare fees.
But Belanger says she just received a letter saying that funding will run out in September, when the responsibility would normally shift back to the Ministry of Education.
She says she’ll be saddled with an extra $3,200 per month in child care fees if classes don’t resume as planned on Sept. 2.
“There is no money, there is no funding,” she said.
“I really don’t know what to do. One can only imagine how many children across the province are affected by this. We’re talking about thousands of children.”
NDP MLA Judy Darcy, who represents New Westminster, says the B.C. government has not made provisions for students requiring extra funding, like her constituent’s son.
“He’s falling between the cracks and the government has come up with no solution, not only to the labour dispute but to families with children with special needs like this,” she told a press conference Thursday morning.
She estimates there are 150 to 200 children in the Tri-Cities alone who in a similar situation.
The B.C. Teachers Federation says there were more than 50,000 students with special needs in B.C. schools in the 2011-2012 school year.
Darcy is asking the province to come up with a solution to the loophole she believes will hurt many B.C. families.
“Children with special needs are going to be severely disadvantaged,” Darcy said.
Speaking to CTV News, Education Minister Peter Fassbender says he can’t guarantee that children will be back in school in September.
Fassbender wouldn’t speculate on how long the dispute will continue, but reiterated the province won’t legislate the teachers back to work because of past negative experiences.
“The government has been seen as the big heavy hand that comes in, we need to change that dynamic,” he said. “We need to get that negotiated settlement, a long term settlement, so we can focus on the things that are critical to the future of every student.”
Fassbender says he hopes the $40 per day compensation for parents will offset the financial pressure of having children out of school.
But Belanger called the offer woefully inadequate and “laughable.”
“It barely makes a dent in my childcare budget. It’s nothing short of bribery,” Belanger said.
Belanger is hoping the province can reach a solution, so her son can be back in school, where he’s happiest.
“He’s engaging, he’s smart,” she said. “He loves school.”