Province provides funding supplement to B. C. school districts for children and youth in care

Education minister Rob Fleming will be updating the media on what is being done in B.C. classrooms during the pandemic. Shelby Thom\Global News

The provincial government has put in place new funding for children and youth in care as part of changes to funding to school districts.

The change will also expand priority funding to more children with mental health challenges and those living in low-income families.

“We’ve heard loud and clear that years of neglect have left far too many of our most vulnerable children not getting the supports they need to be engaged and successful in school,” Education Minister Rob Fleming said.

“Our government is doing things differently by putting the success and well-being of students first while ensuring equity in the way we fund public education.”

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The BC Teachers’ Federation (BCTF) is applauding the fact the province didn’t switch to a “prevalence model.” which was suggested by the government’s own funding review panel.

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“Rather than funding based on the needs of individual children, much of the funding would be based on the prevalence of a child’s condition or disability across the student population at large,” reads a description from the BCTF’s magazine.

“Students with special needs deserve (and are legally entitled to!) appropriate and consistent care that is tailored to their actual disability and specific needs, not guesswork.”

BCTF President Teri Mooring says teachers had been working hard to convince the government to back off the prevalence model because they “were concerned about the negative consequences for students with special needs, their parents, and their teachers.”

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The union and the provincial government are still working through discussions to reach a long-term contract for teachers. Mooring says she is looking forward to the B.C. budget, which will be introduced on Feb. 18, to see if there is funding to address concerns like teacher shortages.

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“The threat of the prevalence model made an already complex round of collective bargaining more difficult. It’s going to be helpful to this round to see it shelved.” Mooring said.

“I hope this decision not to proceed with the prevalence funding model is permanent and that the promise for additional consultation will find a better way forward for teachers, students, and parents.”

The province says the funds announced on Friday are intended for supports like trauma counselling, school breakfast or lunch programs, additional support in the classroom, recognizing mental health issues and early intervention, or tutoring.

The amount of money allocated for the supplement will be announced following the budget.

The province says this is part of a two-phase plan to improve education in the province.

“We’re glad that the ministry is taking the initial step in moving forward with the necessary process of improving the funding model,” BC School Trustees Association President Stephanie Higginson said.

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