Faced with a cut in funding of almost $1 million, partners in the Central Alberta Regional Collaborative Service Delivery (RCSD) will say they continue to advocate for the Rachel Notley government to restore funding that was cut in the recent provincial budget.
“At the end of the day, when you take away $1 million in funding, services will need to be cut, waiting lists will get longer,” said Board Chair Bev Manning. “With increasingly complex classrooms with diverse student needs, these funds have provided specialized services and supports for some of our neediest students. We really don’t understand how the province could cut this funding.”
RCSD is an approach to ensure children, youth and families have access to supports they need to be successful at school and in the community. It brings together partners from nine area school jurisdictions as well as Alberta Health Services, Alberta Human Services and Alberta Education. The program was started to streamline, coordinate and enhance access to supports and services for children and youth.
Central Alberta RCSD provides universal supports for student across the district as well as targeted and specialized supports for students with complex needs based on the severity of their impairment and who require significant extraordinary care. Programming is also provided to students with low-incidence disabilities including blind and visually impaired; deaf and hard of hearing; and complex communication needs. The program also supports skill development and capacity building for school staff, families and service providers. Recently the program was also expanded to support youth and families living in First Nations communities.
Three years ago the government provided bridge funding to address demonstrated inequities in the provincial funding model. While they indicated the funding was temporary, it did not address the core of the matter – the demonstrated need to support students with complex and diverse needs, officials have said. Since then, demand and services provided to students have increased further demonstrating the need for the funding.
“The challenge we face is that as a school jurisdiction, we don’t have the dollars to fill in these gaps. That was why the model was developed, it recognized the government departments each had distinct mandates to meet the needs of students and it was better to work together to best meet these needs,” said Superintendent of Schools, Stu Henry. “We’re talking about our students and we want to make sure they are getting the supports they need. It so important these needs are met early in life when we can make a difference rather than deal with the consequences later on.”
Red Deer Public Schools and its other education partners are working together to get funding restored. Jurisdictions are calling for meetings with government to let them know the consequences of this decision and push for restored funding.
“We have reluctantly made decisions that will see reduced budgets for services provided by schools as well as Alberta Health Services and Human Services, said Chad Erickson, associate superintendent, student services. “We have tried to protect funding for the most vulnerable students so cuts to health services have been minimal but still amount to over $350,000. These include speech language pathology, occupational therapy, physical therapy, mental health, social work and coordinated services. The education partners have seen a 30 per cent reduction in their funding totaling over $410,000. The impact on Red Deer Public Schools is close to $60,000 which means fewer services for students.”