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MPP sends letter to Minister of Education

September 5, 2015

From Queen's Park

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Hon. Liz Sandals

 Minister of Education

 22nd Floor, Mowat Block

900 Bay Street

Toronto, ON M7A 1L2

Dear Minister Sandals:

Iím writing today to again bring to your attention concerns from parents, students and community members with regard to the recently announced cuts to as many as 50 Educational Assistant positions in the Bluewater District School Board. You may recall that I brought this issue to your attention during Question Period at Queenís Park last May.

As youíre aware, the Boardís decision to eliminate the EA positions is a result of your ministryís cuts to Special Education funding. After your ministry reduced special education funding by $22.5 million, our local Board was forced to let teaching staff go. This cut is causing great concern to parents of children who are blind, autistic, diabetic or suffer from a learning disability and need that extra classroom support. For this reason, I am sharing their personal stories with you by way of the enclosed letters. I respectfully ask you to review and familiarize yourself with the predicament these families' face.

Adding to their anxiety is the possible continuation of teacher strikes, and the looming closures of as many as 18 schools, affecting some 5,000 student spaces, which is over one-third of the total number of schools within the Bluewater District School Board.

In my opinion, and as Iíve conveyed to you in my past correspondence, school closures and funding cuts are a quick fix for a system stymied by an antiquated school funding formula. I am hard-pressed to remind you that your party has pledged in every election since 1999 to fix the school funding formula thatís responsible for creating a plethora of problems in our education system. As Iíve always said, for too long students in rural and Northern Ontario have been cheated out of the resources they need to succeed because of your governmentís inaction in reviewing and fixing the funding formula. This procrastination is especially frustrating to parents who today are bearing the brunt of these cuts.

Kathy Cotterís 7-year-old daughter suffers from retinal dystrophy and is legally blind. With her EA gone, there will be no one to braille her books. Candice Huberís 8-year-old son suffers from Type 1 diabetes and hypo-glycemic episodes. With his EA gone, there will be no one to watch and help keep him safe.

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My ask of you today is the same as back in May: as the minister responsible, you have the power to put a stop to special education cuts, to keep educational assistants in our schools where they belong, and to ensure that all students receive the critical support they need to achieve success in the classroom.

Minister, I urge you to not make special education a new casualty of the many pressures facing Ontarioís education system. As such, I respectfully suggest that your ministry first and foremost stick to the higher principles, which are sustaining community schools, supporting all students in the classroom, especially the needs of vulnerable children such as special-education students, and allocating funds to best support student needs.

I will continue to voice the concerns of my constituents on this issue, and I thank you in advance for your attention and efforts in reviewing them.

Sincerely, Bill Walker, MPP

Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound

cc:

Ron Motz, Chair Bluewater District School Board

BWDSB Trustees

 Parents


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