April 6, 2017 4:11 pm
Updated: April 6, 2017 11:35 pm

Regina mom calls Education Minister comments about restoring preschool funding insulting

Michelle Grodecki signs with her son Oscar.

Sean Lerat-Stetner/Global News

Education minister Don Morgan says he will not approved any Regina Public School Board budget that includes cuts to three non-provincially funded preschool programs.

“We’ve made a commitment in our province that we want to be the best province for people with disabilities, so we will ensure that those programs continue,” Morang said.

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The programs are Discovery Preschool (DPS), which offers special programming for children with autism, intellectual, and/or physical disabilities. Communications Preschool (CPS) is tailored to hard of hearing children. The SCEP program is for three and four year olds who have experienced severe trauma or neglect.

READ MORE: Regina schools end preschool programs due to provincial budget cuts

The Regina Public School Division faces a $9.5 million shortfall due to a $5.7 million reduction in provincial funding, and added costs associated with three new schools and increased enrolment.

The phase out of these three programs was expected to save $1.3 million.

The education minister’s comments doesn’t sit well with Michelle Gordecki, whose twin boys attended CPS.

“I find Morgan’s comments insulting,” Grodecki said.

“For five years the public school board has asked repeatedly for the funding to be there for those kids, and the ministry has repeatedly said no,” Grodecki said.

“So now when parents are up in arms, and the Human Rights Commission is brought up and it’s in public eyes, now suddenly they want to find funding, and why didn’t they want to fund these kids back in 2009?”

Grodecki credits CPS for helping develop her hard of hearing son Oscar’s language skills that laid the foundation for his future education. His twin James also attended the preschool and learned sign language.

“When we intervene early they start to get on par with their peers,” Grodecki explained. “So by cutting these programs you are cutting these kids off from sign language, from spoken language, from everything.”

“So you’re making them language deprived, which is completely preventable.”

Oscar will continue to receive supports now that he’s in Grade Two. However, Vigya Singh doesn’t know what the future holds for her daughter Kavya.

Singh hopes to enroll three-and-a-half year-old Kavya in Discovery Preschool, which helps children with autism.

“If she doesn’t go… Then I don’t know what’s next for her. She’s just not ready to go into a regular classroom,” Singh said.

Vigya Singh watches her daughter, Kavya, play.

Sean Lerat-Stetner/Global News

Kavya is non-verbal and has problems with social interaction.

“If a specific program is not designed for these kids, she wouldn’t be able to sit there and understand what’s going on in the classroom,” Singh said.

Singh wants to get Kavya into a program like DPS before enrolling Kavya in regular Kindergarten.

She has looked into private preschools. She said some would accept Kavya, but the Singh family would have to provide an intervention worker.

They cannot afford this. Singh said that they were supposed to receive additional money from the province to support families with autistic children, but that has been delayed because of the budget.

“We are using up savings at the moment to pay for these services for her. It’s hard, I don’t know how long we’ll be able to continue doing it… We’ve been thinking of moving out of Saskatchewan as well, for the same reason,” Singh said.

On Wednesday, board director Greg Enion said that with the shortfall they can only afford programs they receive provincial funding for.

Morgan now wants ministry officials to work with the board to find a way to keep those preschool programs in the budget.

“I’m not committing to more money, but I am committing to making sure those programs are there,” Morgan said.

The Regina Public School Division declined comment on Morgan’s statements.

© 2017 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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