Speech and language services in North Okanagan-Shuswap schools have been given a temporary reprieve.
During recent budget discussions, school district trustees implemented reductions to speech and language services for children with communications difficulties, among other cuts required to reduce the operating budget by $1.8 million.
At a recent school board meeting, it was announced that additional funding to maintain the current level of speech and language services had been approved out of a special learning improvement fund.
“This provides the equivalent funding to maintain the status quo,” said Nora Kennett, district administrator for student services.
The school board had cut the equivalent of a 0.2 speech pathologist position from the budget, however, this one-time funding grant will top up the speech and language services budget by that amount.
“It is good news for those students requiring support with speech and communication disorders,” says Kennett. “It will mean less impact on students this coming year than previously predicted.”
But Kennett notes, this learning improvement fund requires schools to make applications on an annual basis, so there is no guarantee that funds would continue in future years.
It is this issue that concerns Jennifer Henrie, a parent of a child with communication challenges. She recently lobbied the school board and the ministry for speech and language funding, and co-ordinated a parent letter-writing campaign to the Education Minister and local MLA Greg Kyllo.
“Though I am encouraged by the fact that the speech and language program received the one year LIF grant, I feel it is not a healthy funding structure for such a vital program in our schools.”