Update: Kathleen Wynne: Reverse Cuts to Students With Disabilities at the Provincial Schools

April 8, 2014
Chris Cormier

Dear Premier; premier@ontario.ca

In one of your most recent budget announcements you have committed to 300 million dollars for front line staff who work with vulnerable people in Ontario. We ask that you consider using as small fraction of this funding for The Provincial Schools for Students who are deaf, deaf-blind, blind and learning disabled. Over 18500 hours of direct service have been cut by our Senior Management Group and to date there has been no resolve to the issue. We understand that this announcement may be for the Ontario Works and the Ontario Disability Support Program, however we work with students who are the future and require proper funding now.

Over 2000 people have signed a message of support at change.org and our support and interest continues to grow. Today you announced investments into education to support innovative and high tech classrooms. Provincial Schools is a leader in assistive technology (including mobile device supports) and failing some future funding or direction will cease to exist to support disabled children to prosper. Why would you let a system of dynamic accommodation continue to be funded like the way Mike Harris left it? We have faced layoffs, cuts, and declining enrolment for 5 years. How can this be possible when Ontario has hundreds of thousands of students with disabilities that meet our criteria for admission? Please see the variety of programs below and descriptions.

Demonstration Schools (Amethyst, Trillium, Sagonaska, Centre Jules Leger) train and ensure teachers from school boards attain their masters in special education in an environment that is successful with students with learning disabilities. We are a training ground for ground breaking research and techniques. Since 1982 hundreds of teachers have been seconded and returned with their special education designations to their school boards thanks to our programs. On average students who come to our schools are a minimum of 7 grades behind in reading levels. When they leave our programs they leave with assistive technology and reading levels that meet the grade level they return to in their school boards. Demonstration Schools in Provincial Schools literally save the provincial government hundreds of millions of dollars in special education. This is without mentioning the dozens of training programs we offer parents with children with disabilities.

W Ross Macdonald is the world leader in accommodations for students who are blind and deaf-blind. This program has over 100 years of history and success. Their graduates have become leaders for various community programs including the CNIB. Students are often world champions in Para Olympics and the ground breaking programs for blind children are amazing. We also provide braille text to every school board in Ontario for blind students.

Deaf Programs (Robarts, E.C. Drury, Sir James Whitney, Centre Jules Leger) have a 140 year history in the province of Ontario. They provide a culturally diverse option for deaf children where they can become leaders in the deaf community. Children who are main streamed in the regular school board programs often come to our schools with limited levels of success. They are often isolated with an interpreter and are unable to experience their own deaf culture and proper accommodations in a regular school board. Each year we have dozens of our students moving on to university and community college programs. Most leave and become leaders in the deaf community and become advocates for years to come.

Staff in the Provincial Schools are now almost all contingent workers employed by the Ontario Public Service. We work contract to contract and have been moving in that direction since 1997 when Mike Harris changed our staff models. We had worked out an agreement in 2010 to ensure some stability in our jobs and programs we offered. This has now been rescinded by our Senior Management Group. Our workplace was a hot topic of contention in the last round of Ontario Public Service bargaining and we jointly agreed to review the use and abuse of contingent work. The employerâs response was to punish all of us and cut our hours of work. At no time did they give any thought to the students who were being affected nor the quality public services provided. We ask that you look into this matter and provide proper funding so students at a minimum receive the education and the accommodations they are entitled too in the Province of Ontario.

Provincial Schools is a mere 187 million dollars out of a 2.5 billion dollar special education budget and since Mike Harris we have not been funded properly. We are the last direct funded program for vulnerable students in the province. Our front line staffing budget makes up only 20 percent of the whole Provincial Schools budget. The message thatâs being sent by our senior management group is you are not important to the vulnerable students you work with. Accommodations for Ontarioâs most vulnerable students is a part time, insecure, disrespectful working environment. This is after years of work by our Union to change that culture.

Our allies our very concerned and are looking at legal options to ensure students receive the proper funding and staffing levels they deserve. Parents are looking at the British Columbia Supreme Court Decision that held the province liable for a closure of a special needs program due to lack of funding. Damages were paid to students and the case is a landmark decision on a provinces duty to accommodate under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

We look forward to a response on this matter and we are hopeful that this matter can be resolved so students with disabilities can receive the quality public services they deserve.

CC Minister of Education; lsandals.mpp.co@liberal.ola.org

CC Andrea Horvath; ahorwath-co@ndp.on.ca

CC ONDP Education Critic; tabunsp-co@ndp.on.ca,

View the Survey at http://www.change.org/en-CA/petitions/kathleen-wynne-reverse-cuts-to-students-with-disabilities-at-the-provincial-schools?utm_source=supporter_message&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=supporter_message