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(Canada) Ottawa: Budget shortfall; SPED needs growing; summer program to be cut

June 5, 2023, CBC: Ottawa Parents alarmed at potential cut to program for kids with disabilities

OCDSB considering reallocating funds to regular school year as it battles shortfall

A proposal by Ottawa's largest school board that could see funding cut to a summer program for children with disabilities has parents reeling and ready to fight.

The summer learning program at the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board (OCDSB) provides 17 additional instructional days in the summer months, with a focus on fostering kids' individual learning plans and life skills.

But according to the budget that staff recommend for the 2023-24 school year, the funding for the summer program could be reallocated to the regular school year instead.

No final decision has been made, but the OCDSB is experiencing a budget shortfall of $19 million [$14M], according to spokesperson Darcy Knoll.

The proposed cut isn't fair to kids who need the help most, said Joanne Small-Greenall, who has two teenage children who attend the Crystal Bay Centre for Special Education.

Both are deaf, blind and non-verbal, Smith-Greenall says. They also have autism and epilepsy and are developmentally delayed.

"They don't discriminate, they accept everyone in the world," she said. "My question is to the board ... why are you discriminating against them?"

'Complex and challenging' decision

According to the 2023-24 budget report, the "specialized education program delivered during the regular school year continues to grow with increasing needs for additional support."
That's why the board is looking at reallocating the $600,000 [$446K] in summer program funding, although it's a "complex and challenging decision," Knoll said in a statement Sunday to CBC.

The board would also hire nine more educational assistants and a co-ordinator.

"We recognize that needs are always greater than available resources. In addition to advocating for more funding, we must also review and assess how available funds are allocated," Knoll said….

Françoise Slaunwhite is of the same opinion. Her 14-year-old daughter attends Clifford Bowie Public School, where she needs help with all of her daily care.

She worries that the summer program students will now be out of school for a full two months, instead of just one. …


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