While this is obviously a national issue, it is also a local issue. Just what is the Government up to with funding for special needs education? It was reported that Education Ministry papers revealed officials hoped to save more than $23 million in funding for special needs students in coming years.
How would these savings be made? It was suggested it could only be achieved through "underspending" on these children, despite principals up and down the country stating more money, not less is needed.
It was reported by the SUNDAY STAR-TIMES that in papers it had obtained the ministry hoped to underspend in the Ongoing and Reviewable Resourcing Scheme(ORRS)by $23.5 million between 2006 and 2010. ORRS is for the highest special needs - many of whom are in mainstream classes. Why would the ministry make such a strange prediction when everybody involved knows full well that many more funding dollars will be desperately needed in coming years?
It is hypocritical of the National Party Opposiion and a particular spokeswoman to criticise, shed crocodile tears and claim anger at officials who "are picking on the most vulnerable children in society to slash funding". She says most schools struggle for special needs funding and rely on dipping into general budgets , fundraisng or pleading with parents to top them up.
The National Party is directly responsible for the situation under the Education Ministry's Section 9; they dismantled the widesread system of special education schools and many units when they were last in power in the 1990's, and only allowed funding for special need students until they left primary school. Once in Intermediate School they had to rely on the limited funding these schools received and raised.One example of this was my grandson who had good special needs support at Stokes Valley School, but only a total of seven hours mainstream support at Avalon Intermediate. I was told this was quite usual, almost the norm at intermediate schools.
To get ORRS funding a child almost has to be at the stage where they can't walk, talk, feed themselves and aren't toilet trained. I support this claim through first hand involvement wth my granson's education from the age of eight to fifteen years.
I believe the present Government and its Education Minister tried to prioritise the average mainstream education at the expense of special needs education, and their policy has blown up in their faces. New Zealand parents and teachers won't tolerate this situaton any more. The Education Ministry will just have to find the money for special needs education from other sources.They will just have to forget about tryng to save money over the next few years.
The National Party's dubious role should not be forgotten in actually creating this volatile situation, and their hypocrisy in trying to make the Labour Party the villains of the peace should not be forgotten as we move closer to the next general elections. They really are a mean spirited bunch who should be alert to the possibiliies of their own children being victims of such an education system - wealth is no guarantee against childhood learning problems.