Summer 2015 Newsletter Page 9
An overview of Dr. Paul Bennett’s policy paper: Extending the Educational Lifeline : The Tuition Support Program and Its Benefits for Special Needs Students
Dr. Paul Bennett, Director of Schoolhouse Consulting, has recently released a policy paper on behalf of for the Atlantic Institute for Maritime Studies (AIMS) regarding the possible expansion of the Nova Scotia Tuition Support Program (TSP) into New Brunswick. AIMS is a Canadian non-profit, non-partisan organization that provides a distinctive Atlantic Canadian perspective on economic, political, and social issues. Dr. Bennett’s paper shows that there is currently a gap in educational services for people with learning disabilities in New Brunswick. Students with learning disabilities in New-Brunswick have very few options other than the public school system and as Dr. Bennett states, “Students attempting to overcome severe learning challenges in today’s regular classrooms need an educational lifeline.” Unfortunately, in New-Brunswick, that often means that parents who want to offer their children alternative learning opportunities through a private school must do so at their own cost and these costs currently range in the area of $11,500 per year. He suggests that by introducing a tuition support program in New-Brunswick similar to that currently offered in Nova Scotia, it may help to alleviate some of the financial hardship for parents of children with severe Learning Disabilities who would benefit from the specialized services offered in certain private schools.
In Nova Scotia, since the initiation of the tuition support program, it has grown, both in popularity and in financial stability. “The TSP, initiated in September 2004, provides an option for students with special needs who cannot be served at their local public schools. It is explicitly intended for short-term purposes and works on the assumption that students can eventually be successfully ‘transitioned’ back into the regular system. The TSP provides funding that covers most of the tuition costs to attend designated special education private schools (DSEPS) and any public alternative education centres that might eventually be established in Nova Scotia.” (Dr. Bennett, 2015).
Despite the proven results of the TSP in Nova Scotia, neighbouring provinces have not yet followed suit and Dr. Bennett suggests that the inclusive classroom model is not meeting the needs of all children, namely those with severe LDs. “The next frontier is New Brunswick, where the needs are great and the options severely limited for children who do not fit the current one-size-fits-all model of public schooling.” Taking into consideration, as Dr. Bennett points out, that the cost of the TSP per student is comparable to that of the cost in the public school system and factoring in the social costs of not addressing the problem, such as a higher rate of high-school dropouts, employment and judicial issues, the TSP is a wise investment in the future.
In conclusion, Dr. Bennett makes a number of recommendations, including that the Department of Education and Early Child Development in NB, NFLD and PEI should further study the TSP program in NS and weigh the costs and benefits of the TSP, both financial and social costs. Dr. Bennett also suggests that the new Liberal government in NB should take a better look at Riverbend Community School in Moncton, and consider making it the pilot school for the tuition support program in New Brunswick. He encourages the Department of Education support existing private schools or create their own schools aimed at providing specialized services appropriate to the needs of students. Bennett also brings to attention that school districts should form closer partnerships with advocacy groups whose focus is special education.
To view Dr. Bennett’s full AIMS policy paper, please click on the following link: http://www.aims.ca/site/media/aims/AIMS_ExtendingEdu_MY26-F4.pdf
Retrieved online: Extending the Educational Lifeline: The Tuition Support Program and Its Benefits for Special Needs Students by Dr. Paul W. Bennett, Schoolhouse Consulting. Halifax, NS, May 2015. http://www.aims.ca/site/media/aims/AIMS_ExtendingEdu_MY26-F4.pdf