Skip to content

Special Needs Funding in BC Schools – It’s Not What You Think

egg rolls

The allocation of services for students in various categories is not like a Chinese Food Menu…if you have designation “X”, it comes with egg rolls and a full time EA

The Ministry began by determining, in a very broad way, approximately how much it will cost to meet the needs of students in certain special education categories. They recognize that the sum they have come up with may exceed the cost of meeting the needs of some students and be insufficient to meet the needs of others within the same category.

In short, the Ministry has never claimed that the funds your child’s category generates for the district, are to be assigned to your child. They are to be pooled at the district level with some students getting a bit more and others a bit less, depending on their identified needs which is determined by the school district.

At the beginning of a new school year, with hundreds of students with Special Needs in need of immediate support, the district has to come up with some way of distributing the resources they have (EA time, Speech/Language, etc.) to students who need them. There is no time to evaluate the individual level of support needed for each student based on their unique needs at this point.

Typically, and especially in large districts, a district will employ some system to determine what services automatically go where at the beginning of the year based on designations…and from there, the tweaking begins with some students requiring more and others less support.

This automation of the service distribution causes many educators and parents to believe that students in certain categories are mandated to receive certain kinds and levels of service. It just isn’t true no matter who tells you that.

It’s just an in-house system that approximates needs by category and responds with distributing roughly what they think the service level needs will be. Districts take into account the data they have collected from previous years, based on student populations at the school level – how many students with Special Needs were enrolled the previous year, and how many have moved up a level. They may also factor in that some schools will have a higher incidence of students with Special Needs than others, and account for that in their initial distribution.

After the initial distribution, districts know that some tweaking will still need to occur to ensure those students who need more than was allocated will receive additional support. So districts will hold back a pool of EA time (and other services) for this reason. After a few weeks, parents and/or educators may see that the supports that were automatically generated are insufficient to support a particular student. Typically, the principal applies to the department of Student Services requesting additional EA time, explaining the need – usually around the end of October.

The bottom line is, it doesn’t matter what category your child is designated in.

The services they receive, and the intensity or level of service they get, must be based on each student’s unique individual needs…not on an automated service delivery system.

It’s the law of the land (Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, BC Human Rights Act – upheld by the Supreme Court of Canada) and no public service like public education can write a policy that changes that fact.

  • Cathie Camley




2 thoughts on “Special Needs Funding in BC Schools – It’s Not What You Think”

  1. I think allocation is a much bigger deal than one would think. IEP’s are being designed around the small portion of the child’s need that can be managed based on the amount of EA or Resource time provided, It is interestingly that it is just a coincidence that the amount for a full time EA is about the amount for an A level student and that the amount for a B level designation is about the cost of 1EA to 2 students and level three was 1 EA to 4 students and then there was an amount at one time for any student who needed less than 25 hours of intervention that used to be calculated. My understanding is that the Ministry took the calculated sum of the final category and lumped it into the general funding for schools along with other per student funding. Further that they removed the direct connections between students and noticing the extreme amount of difficulty schools were having as things like increases in teacher salaries settled by the province were simply downloaded on to local board to make cuts to cover the cost without increases,that they permitted a looser connection with special ed funding to the “choice” of the board for “efficiency” calling on their “innovation” to find a way to make it work. Sadly EA’s are easy targets because their contracts are not as strong as Teachers and so in making things work they are more vulnerable. Further more children with higher needs are being brought into schools to deal with. But you are correct that the allocation no longer is tied as much to the individual child. My problem is when the IEP’s start to reflect the amount of time designated. The needs are not able to be met so IEP’s leave out key tasks or goals because they know they cannot be met. Technology we hear about helps, but does not replace well trained resource room teachers, and needed EA support. Response to Intervention is helpful for the middle group of students but I worry with the introduced guidelines for the use of restraint and seclusion sneaking under the door. Of course if there is not adequate EA and teacher support acting out is likely to happen more and rather than address that..introducing and legalizing the use of force for administrative purposes is just down right sad. I recommend parents check with their school district regarding these new guidelines and strongly advocate to have them banned! Nothing like blaming the most vulnerable children for systemic inadequacy!

  2. Hi Rebecca,

    It’s quite true that IEPs often do not reflect a student’s actual need but are more of a reflection of available EA or SLP, etc. time. That is why I emphasize that, “The services they (students) receive, and the intensity or level of service they get, must be based on each student’s unique individual needs…not on an automated service delivery system,” and that this is the law of the land.

    You are correct when you point out that the amount of funds generated are comparable to EA time. As I mentioned, the Ministry did a broad calculation of what it would cost to serve student in those categories – and they likely did it based on the amount of EA time they thought would cover all three of the funded levels – and yes, they factored in EA time shared by more than one student for some categories. However, the funding a student generates has never been “tied” to the student.” As the Ministry has been fond of saying for decades, “It’s a funding formula – not a spending formula.” At one time the funding for special education was targeted meaning districts could not use those funds for other purposes. That restriction has been removed now, but all districts report that they spend more than they receive on special education.

    The “final category” you speak of is actually a number of very distinct categories that incudes a number of high incidence disabilities – all separate Ministry categories including Learning Disabilities (Dyslexia), Mild Intellectual Disabilities, Moderate Behaviour Support/Mental Illness and Gifted Education. You are correct, their funding is included in the base allocation – the amount districts receive for every registered student. Students in these categories can also access EA time, SLP services, etc. Again, each student should get the support they require based on their assessed needs regardless of category.

    Fiscal restraint and downloaded costs have greatly diminished the districts’ ability to properly serve students. It falls to parents to be aware of their children’s rights and entitlements under the law. We have to stop accepting less than what is required to support our children even if districts are struggling financially. It’s the only way to force change because if we keep accepting less, then less is what we will get – less and less every year.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.