Union speaks out about special needs cuts

The union that represents Nanaimo school district's support workers has started a campaign to try to get funding restored for some special needs students.

The union that represents Nanaimo school district’s support workers has started a campaign to try to get funding restored for some special needs students.

Last February, Education Ministry staff came to the district and reviewed the files of about 1,600 students designated special needs. The ministry gives the district extra money to support some of these students.

Following the review, about 100 students were de-designated or had their status changed and the ministry pulled about $600,000 in funding for these students, which translated into the loss of about 30 education assistants.

Ron Farino, president of Cupe local 606, said the loss of these support workers is having huge impacts on classrooms this fall because most of these students still need the extra help to be successful learners.

“It’s not working,” he said.

Farino gets phone calls almost every day from education assistants who are frustrated and upset because they feel unable to do their jobs, he said.

For example, some spend all day going from classroom to classroom to classroom, said Farino, and they are often dealing with behavioural problems and other issues rather than helping students learn.

Education assistants are reporting more behavioural issues in classrooms, more students feeling isolated and struggling to get started in the morning, said Farino.

“Without that assistance, it’s just taking more time away from their education,” he said.

Farino will continue to talk with different stakeholder groups and district officials about the situation and plans to lobby the provincial government to get the funding restored.