May 4/18: BC Public Education Funding Review: Not Nearly Enough Information; Timeline Too Short

Alternative titles: 1. It’s Not Over ’til It’s Over 2. Can We Talk?

From the Ministry Discussion Guide below: “The Chair of the Independent Review Panel will present a final report and recommendations to the Minister of Education in the late summer of 2018 for consideration, and the Ministry will work with the Technical Review Committee to model options going forward… Once a decision has been made by government, the key features of the new model will be communicated in the winter of 2018/19, with preliminary grant announcements issued under the new funding model in March 2019 (for the 2019/20 school year), including transitional measures (if required). Boards of Education are encouraged to work with their local stakeholder groups, including parents, to gather their views on how funds should be allocated for K-12 public education, and provide this feedback to the Independent Review Panel in writing. Written submissions and questions about the funding model review can be sent to: k12fundingreview@gov.bc.ca before the end of April 2018.” 

End of April 2018. That went fast!  Too fast, for a big change like this.

The British Columbia School Trustees Association AGM on  April 28 / 18 carried three Resolutions that deal specifically with the Funding Formula review, one recommending slowing down the process for a year. 

BCSTA L 45

BCSTA L46

BCSTA L47

What do we know about the Funding Formula Review and the proposed Profile Funding replacement for the current Ministry Designations based model for students with exceptional needs for support?

  • The Profile Funding model is based on funding School Districts based on statistical projections of the number of students over past years in a District and school including those who have exceptional needs for support. What if statistics and real students in the classroom don’t align? What is the appeal process? What is the timeline for review of the statistics that the projection is based on?

Could all the references to local Board “flexibility to meet local needs”  in reports supporting Profile Funding be the same offload onto Boards to bear the brunt of stakeholder frustration that we’ve experienced in an ongoing and increasingly untenable way since 2002, when the real problem is there is not enough funding to meet the needs of intensifying diversity and associated needs for support in every school and classroom? The proposed model is not about adding money to public education.

BC Ministry  of Education Funding Model Discussion GuideDid  your Board or DPAC discuss these questions in depth? At all?

Theme 1: Student Success in the Context of an Evolving Education
System: Key Questions: Questions to explore through the next stage of the review could include:

  • Should funding vary by method of delivery, by level of education, by subject matter, and/or by type of student, or should Boards of Education have the flexibility to develop programs and services without having to worry about multiple funding components?
  • Could the funding model better support changes in educational program delivery, including more flexibility, individualized learning, cross-curricular studies, and teacher collaboration, in ways that result in better outcomes for students?
  • Can the funding model be modified to help close educational gaps and improve equity of access to educational programs and services?
  • Can different funding approaches be used to promote individual student choice
  • Should funding directly incent [ can’t wait to see this word disappear back to wherever it fame from, maybe hand in hand with “fulsome” used to mean “full”]   improvements to individual student success?
  • Are there certain types of funding that should be targeted or restricted to allow government to direct funds for specific purposes or policy initiatives, and to track those expenditures and  outcomes more rigorously?

Theme 2: Special  Needs, Vulnerable, Indigenous Students 

Key Questions Special Needs: Opportunities to be explored through the funding model review may include:

  • Should an alternative, non-diagnosis (or reporting-based) model of funding students with special needs be considered?
  • How can a new funding model ensure that individual students, in all parts of the province,receive the support they require in a timely manner?
  • How can a new funding model reduce administrative costs and increase resources dedicated to services to students?
  • Could the funding model better support special needs students in ways that result in better outcomes for students?

Key Questions Vulnerable Students:  The funding model review presents an opportunity to investigate whether there are more effective approaches to allocating funding for vulnerable students. Potential questions may include:

  • How can a new funding model contribute to improved equity of access to services, and improved outcomes for vulnerable students?
  • Should allocations for vulnerable students be combined with those for other students?
  • Should the funding model differentiate between the needs of different types of vulnerable  students?
  • Are there data sources from other agencies that could be incorporated to better capture trends in vulnerable student populations in school districts?

Key Questions Indigenous Students:   A recent report from B.C.’s Office of the Auditor General recommended evaluating the effectiveness of targeted funding and enhancement agreements as strategies to close the gaps in education outcomes between Indigenous and non-Indigenous students.4 There is now an opportunity to review
and modify the current funding model with respect to this type of funding. Potential questions to be explored include:

  • Should there be a more explicit link between funding and closing educational gaps for Indigenous students?
  • Are there opportunities to improve the approach to funding services for Indigenous students in alignment with the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples?
  • Should funding be allocated to Boards of Education for Indigenous students include a per pupil amount based on self-identification, a grant based on general population data, or other criteria?

Theme 3:  Responsiveness to Local Circumstances: Key Questions: Potential questions and areas of investigation for the funding model review may include:

  • Should a combination of base and supplemental funding be utilized? If so, what is the most appropriate balance of base funding compared to supplemental funding
  • Should the funding amount be calculated predominantly on headcount, course or credit based, or another method?
  • Should different districts receive different funding rates based on their size/enrolment context or other factors?
  • Are the current factors weighted appropriately and do they cover all the required school district characteristics to generate equitable funding allocations?
  • Are there other data sources that could be used to more equitably disperse funding based on current population and/or geographic dynamics?
  • Should the funding formulae account for significant enrolment shifts within a school district (e.g. flat or declining overall but with large growth in parts of districts)?
  •  Should some remote schools and school districts be allocated funding through a different mechanism (e.g. should schools with fewer than 50 students, or alternate schools, be funded differently than the rest of the province)?

Theme 4: Flexibility [Remember the scoffing when stakeholders in public education knew “flexibility” when promoted  by the BC Liberals meant  do more with less, and less? But now, it’s good.  Isn’t it?] Key Questions:  The current review is an opportunity to investigate whether different funding approaches could resolve some of the challenges faced by Boards of Education with respect to flexibility. Questions to
explore through the funding model review could include:

  • Should the funding model be adjusted to provide Boards of Education with greater flexibility and autonomy in spending? If so, which areas require flexibility, and which areas requiremore targeted or restrictive approaches?
  • Which types of funding should be targeted and/or restricted to support equity of access to educational programs and services across the province and continuous improvement of student outcomes?
  • Should the number of grants “outside the block” be reduced, or have fewer restrictions?

Theme 5 :  Financial Management and Accountability: Key Questions
The funding model review presents an opportunity to explore these issues further, and to strengthen financial governance and accountability in the education sector. Possible areas of focus and questions may include:

  • Should school district spending be monitored throughout the year and allocations adjusted if a surplus is projected? For example, ensure that funding provided is being utilized as intended?
  •  Should the manner in which funding is confirmed be restructured and flowed to minimize the growth of cash balances?
  • Should there be a limit on the amount of accumulated operating surplus that can be carried over from year to year?
  • What is the optimal timing for announcing and releasing funds throughout the school year?
  • Should the funding model account for school district own-sourced revenues, ensuring equity of educational opportunities for all students, regardless of where they live in the province?

Theme 6 : Predictability and Costs Questions:  The funding model review presents an opportunity to investigate whether funding mechanisms can better support long-term budgeting and help school districts deal with fixed and variable costs more
effectively. Possible questions to consider in the next phase of work may include:

  • How can funding be confirmed earlier or in a multi-year timeframe to support strategic, longterm budget planning?
  • Are there mechanisms that could be introduced to the funding model to reduce the
    fluctuations in funding year over year?
  •  Should the funding model, or the structure and process supporting the model, be modified to track unexpected cost increases or decreases, so that adjustments can be made if needed?
  • Should new mechanisms be considered to equalize the cost differential amongst school districts for items that may be more fixed, such as compensation and staffing levels set by collective agreements?

Theme 7:  Geographic, Economic, Demographic : Key Questions:  There is an opportunity to demonstrate through the funding model review that action is being taken
to address the specific challenges identified through the rural education engagement process. Questions to be investigated may include:

  • What geographic, economic and/or demographic modifiers should be part of the funding model and what weight should they have relative to overall student enrolment?
  •  Should different funding approaches be established for different groupings or types of school districts (Remote, Rural, Urban, and Metro)?

Did you have a structured opportunity to discuss the BCASBO report to the Panel?

  • BCASBO recommends (P 6/22) “Establish funding for students with special needs on an educational needs basis other than using categories .Reduce the existing need for assessment for audit purposes.”
  • Who determines the “educational needs basis” for each student? How? No more assessments for Ministry funding categories with the proposed  model. So what replaces that identification process? Subjective observation? Parent demands?
  • BCASBO refers to the BC CASE submission (membership not available on the website: “We are a professional organization dedicated to improving the educational success for all children. BCCASE liaises with the Ministry of Education and various provincial agencies/organizations, provides professional development, advocates for individuals with exceptionalities, and helps professionals obtain resources necessary for effective professional practice.”)

bcasbo p 14

  • A few “how would that be done” questions come up when reading that page, and yes, I need to know. The proposed changes’ implications are too great for Board of Education trustees in BC (and all BC education stakeholders) to not know more about how this this model would work on the ground – even if trustees  have been told in the past to buy into “cockpit management”.

Did you have a structured opportunity to discuss the BCCPAC response and how the “classroom resources fund” would work in practice?

BCCPAC 1

BCCPAC 2

Did you as a public education school trustee (or other stakeholder) have an opportunity to hear from stakeholders -including parents – in the jurisdictions where this model is in place? Do you know what those jurisdictions are? Rumour has it, they are Alberta, Saskatchewan and Ontario.

Alberta:

  • Did you have an opportunity to to review the September 2014 Report of the Blue Ribbon Panel on Inclusive Education  Alberta Schools? 38 recommendations –  some are Alberta specific but others are widely applicable.
  • SOS Alberta, a parent group, says: “…. inclusive education will only work if the correct supports are in place and so far Alberta has not succeeded. When I talk to parents of students who need extra supports it is clear that there is a huge disconnect between what the students actually need everyday in the classroom and what is available to them from the school system. Training for educational assistants is a huge issue here too, and the staff themselves would love to have more training, but its always a low priority. … I think it would be smart to look closely at what is not working in your current system, and what is working and what has been the experience elsewhere, it’s an opportunity to really do something right in BC on this issue.”
  • Wolf Creek School Division in Alberta:

Wolf Creek Superintendent Jayson Lovell:  “It’s just such a dramatic increase so quickly and the challenge that we face is the funding for inclusion is block-funded.”What that means is WCPS is given a defined amount of money for these diverse learning students based on what the province had determined as the school division’s profile. …“These are students with significantly complex needs including addictions, mental health, safety concerns, multiple disabilities and require multiple specialized supports to be successful. That’s an example where these students have arrived and there is no additional funding to support them in our system. We’ve had to manage that within our profile and that has been incredibly challenging and well been the scope of what we can provide.”

Saskatchewan:

  • 2017 Review of the Education Pre-K -12 Funding Distribution Model :  “Mr. Perrins was asked to focus on equity:  sufficiency of funding was not within the scope of the review.” Executive Summary: “The model itself is a methodology for allocating available education dollars to school divisions on an unconditional basis.   School boards continue to have the autonomy to make budget decisions in accordance with local priorities.”  (Interestingly, no parent group appears on any of the subcommittees).    P 51: Students Requiring Intensive Supports: “The enrolment‐based approach adopted in 2014‐15 included an assumption that there is an equal distribution of students requiring intensive supports across all school divisions….Unfortunately, data is not available and little is known about the distribution of children with intensive needed across the province.” P 67: “Throughout the funding review, school divisions expressed concern about the frequency with which changes have been made to the model since its establishment in 2012‐13.  Adjustments have been made every year with some, such as revision to the supports for learning component in 2014‐15, impacting significantly on funding levels.  Some school divisions express frustration that changes have not always been transparent and that they have compromised school divisions’ ability to plan over multiple years. Questions have also been raised about how, after this review, the integrity of the funding model will be preserved into the future.  There is a desire for a joint, ongoing mechanism for updating the funding model whereby school divisions and the ministry can discuss concerns together and make recommendations for updates and adjustments.  It is recognized that while Government “owns” the model, management of it would be enhanced by the greater involvement of school divisions. There is also a need for better, more consistent data analysis.  “

Ontario:

  • March 26,18: ” Special Education:  “Boards have been requesting more resources given the increase in the amount of students with special education needs.  School boards welcome the $300 million investment over three years to Special Education part of which will go toward the hiring of a total of 600 additional special education staff across the province. It also is intended to address assessment wait list backlogs and eventually eliminate wait lists all together.”(This doesn’t look like elimination of Ministry funding categories, but looks like assistance to  eliminate the waitlists for assessment that bring stakeholders in BC to say “the system isn’t working”. )
  • Shortchanging Ontario Students: An Overview and Assessment of Education Funding in Ontario (August 2017; Ontario Elementary School Teachers ): ” Five issues that were present in the funding formula’s beginnings and persist at present: 1. The adequacy of the total funding provided — the relationship between funding and system-wide needs for special education programming; 2. The relationship between needs-based funding and population-driven funding; 3. The linkage or lack thereof between pupils in need of funding support and the method for allocating that funding at the school board level; 4. The linkage between needs and funding at the individual pupil level; and 5. The impact of changes in funding regimes on the allocation of funding among school boards.”
  • P41 Ontario Elementary School Teachers:   Introduction of statistical model for determining special education support:  In 2010-11, funding shifted from the per-student determined High Needs Amount  to the MOV grant, making more of the funding dependent on estimated changes in needs. ….The SESPM uses census and other data to develop statistical estimates of the likely incidence of various categories of special needs, board by board. The province then uses the results of these statistical estimates to determine each board’s share of the allocated amount. The Ministry continued the same approach for 2011-12, 2012-13, and 2013-14 with the SESPM amount set at $10 million. In 2014-15, the government announced a four-year transition towards a statistically-driven model for allocating the High Needs Amount  among boards. As a result, funding shifted substantially … at the expense of the High Needs Amount (HNA). The transition continued in 2015-16 and 2016-17… again at the expense of the historical HNA. As of 2017-18, the transition is complete. SESPM for 2017-18 is projected to be $763 millio and the MOV amount $269 million. The historical High Needs Amount has been eliminated.
  •  People for Education :  Addressing waiting lists for special education assessment:  According to People for Education’s 2017 Annual Report on Ontario’s Publicly Funded Schools, there are at least 35,000 students waiting for special education assessments in Ontario. While most of these students are receiving some form of support, without an assessment it may be difficult to ensure that the support is targeted and appropriate. Principals have reported for a number of years that waiting lists are too long, and that school boards impose caps on the number of students schools can put on waiting lists

 

At this stage of am important potential shift in funding for public education that will clearly impact students who have exceptional needs for support, these questions should not have to be asked. I don’t believe I am the only stakeholder in BC public education, or less generally, as an elected  Trustee on a BC  Board of Education, who is asking them.

 

What does “diverse” mean in these discussions?  How “diverse” does one  have to be to get some support in terms of funded assistance, usually manifested as part time support from an Education Assistant shared with other students? (CUPE BC has called for development of Standards of Practice for EAs.) Who will decide if a student has needs that need funding or not? What part do parents play in the decisions regarding classroom support for students, and what  will the process be? What part will teachers play in determining funded support for students in the classroom, and what will the process be?   How much of meeting the needs of students with “diverse learning needs” will be piled on to the ever growing  “increasing capacity” of teachers”?  Will there be IEPs? (Yes, I’ve heard.) . Who will write them and whose time will be “taken away from students” to do that? What will they look like?  What kind of reporting is envisioned to align with these IEPs?

These are only a few questions. A deeper examination of the potential changes to public education funding in BC will bring up many more.

Thanks to SD57 Prince George for making it clear (and to the Assembly at the BCSTA AGM) that this process needs to be slowed down by at least a year.

 

 

 

 

 

About Diane McNally