Special education funding: why we shouldn’t rob the secondary sectorOctober 2016
DR JUDITH SELVARAJ says we need to seriously consider whether pitting the compulsory sector against the non-compulsory sector is a good idea.
The Special Education update published recently by the Ministry of Education has been criticised by Sandy Pasley (Secondary Principals’ head) who says that “to lose some funding from secondary sector would be quite dramatic”. Dr Wales, Special Education head, argues that spending rises sharply when children turn five and peaks when they are seven to eight years old. He claims that the funding is best distributed at a younger level.
That proposal is flawed as previous special education reviews have said otherwise and to take funding away from the compulsory sector to another that is bulk funded will inevitably place thousands of students at risk and is a move to privatise special education. Equally, it does not fulfill the intentions of the Education Act, 1989 and places the Government in breach of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (Article 4).
The New Zealand compulsory sector has waited nearly 27 years for a national commitment to inclusive education. And now the Government is pushing an agenda, similar to that of the 1990s, of bulk funding special education, retaining language foreign to that of ‘inclusion’ and ‘inclusive educational practices’ and setting up a funding mechanism that does little to foster the rights of all individuals within the current law to be educated regardless of disability.
We need to seriously consider whether this radicalisation of a new funding model for special education that removes an entitlement from the compulsory sector to that of the non-compulsory sector is ideal and why this Government is pitting one sector against the other.
Questions of who will monitor the spending of the special education bulk fund in the early childhood centres must be answered, as these are private businesses whereas the compulsory education sector is not permitted to make a profit.
Secondly, early childhood educators are trained by many different providers and who will monitor the training programme and will the compulsory sector teachers have to pay for their up skilling?
Thirdly, how will these private providers train their teachers? Will they increase their early childcare costs so that parents will be paying? After all, the private educators are in business to make a profit.
Fourthly, has the Government seriously considered the disastrous outcomes for those students with learning support needs within the compulsory sectors if their funding and support ceases? Does the Government have a transitional plan for these students for the next 10 years?
It is an untimely and woeful move to remove funding from the compulsory education sector, based on an assumption that an older student with learning needs will not require this long term. Simply put, it is the wrong move and will seriously derail previous input for these students.
The OECD funding spent per student by this Government, as indicated by the NZEI, suggests that New Zealand is not in the range that we should be given the ‘richness’ of our country.
It appears that, under this proposal, there are two groups of special education funding in New Zealand: those students in the compulsory sector who are funded by the Ministry of Education and those who will be bulk funded.
That system does not juxtapose well with either New Zealand’s commitment to the Salamanca Statement or alongside the argument of the rights of the individual student. Simply put, it does not enhance the idea of social inclusion.