Presentation to The Education Equality Task Force
By The Ontario Coalition for inclusive Education
September 25, 2002
Thank you for this opportunity to outline our concerns with and recommendations
for the improvement of the present Student – Focused Funding Formula.
We will direct our comments specifically to the special education funding formula,
focusing on ISA.
The Ontario Coalition for Inclusive Education is comprised of 12 provincial
and local organizations that are like-minded in their beliefs about inclusive
education. We represent thousands of students and their families who advocate
for a quality inclusive education. At the request of the Ministry of Education
and Training back in 1995, the Coalition was formed to manage a 3-year project
called Building Inclusive Schools. Since then we have continued to advocate
for inclusive education through subsequent projects, and active lobbying of
politicians and Ministry of Education staff.
The Coalition defines inclusive education as: “All students learning
better together in a regular class in the neighbourhood school with support
to participate in and contribute to the life of the school.”
Within the present special education envelope, we believe the following to
be effective: the census-based allocation of the funding formula, Special Education
Per Pupil Amount (SEPPA), and the Intensive Support Amount (ISA) Level 1 – which
provides students with equipment and technology to be used as tools to enhance
their learning. We believe, however, that SEPPA should be increased significantly
and that a Reserve Fund should be made available to school boards, as a local
priority amount that could respond to the individual needs of each community.
These 3 envelopes (SEPPA, ISA 1 and a reserve fund) would be more effective
in providing schools with the financial resources needed for students to be
successful at school, than the present system. Such a funding mechanism would
be responsive to outcomes of learning, as opposed to inputs of negative labeling
and stereotypes as is currently promoted by ISA.
We believe that the special education funding formula, as allocated by the
Intensive Support Amount (specifically ISA 2 and 3,and SIP), seriously compromises
the integrity of the educational system and the legal right of students with
disabilities to continue to be included in regular classrooms in neighbourhood
We believe that the ISA funding formula is misguided and lacks those very
principles upon which the Task Force believes a funding formula should be based.
ISA 2 and 3 funding:
- is not fair nor is it equitable for students especially with intellectual
disabilities, pervasive developmental disorder and behaviour issues.
- does not respond to individual students needs rather it places
students categorically in to groups,
- does not address resources that would benefit student learning,
- is only marginally accountable from a financial perspective, not
from a student success perspective. As a matter of fact student success is
order for school boards to maintain their funding. If a student
is seen to be successful and progressing academically, then the supports
that were in
place to ensure that success in the first place are withdrawn,
and the Ministry subsequently penalizes boards by removing the funding.
Our fears and concerns arise from the ISA 2,3 and SIP application process
that school boards are required to follow in order to prove to the Ministry
that they need funding to teach students with higher needs. Despite the promise
that once the funding goes ‘live’ the process is over and we can
forget about ISA, we are skeptical. As parents who have witnessed the harm
to our sons and daughters, as a result of the derogatory deficit labeling that
is required in order to meet the very negative profiles that the Ministry has
developed for students of particular exceptionalities, we are offended and
take great exception to the process. The documentation will remain on file
permanently, and will precede students throughout their educational experiences
and follow them beyond graduation – in effect it will prejudice our children
from experiencing an academic education with their age-appropriate peers and
compromise the respect that they deserve in being described for their strengths
and talents not their deficits. How many of us would present the 3 things we
don’t do well, instead of our strongest attributes when applying for
a job? Why then should our children have to be presented in such a manner?
Do teachers perceive these deficits as helpful in designing learning activities
for the students in their classrooms? I would suggest that a teacher would
benefit more from knowing what a student can do as opposed to what they can’t.
We would be remiss in not referring to the waste of financial and personnel
resources on the part of school boards that has occurred over the past 3 years
in assessing and documenting in order to ensure that students qualify for ISA
funding. We know that millions of dollars have been spent by school boards
to prepare and process the ISA files, and that the Ministry has also invested
millions of dollars in training, administration and validation of the whole
ISA language has become insidious within the educational system. The negative
language is evident now in report cards, Individual Education Plans and any
documentation that must be written for ‘ISA kids’. Not only is
the language pervasive, but any reports are being written for the sole purpose
of ISA, not for monitoring progress. ‘ISA kids’ become files that
have a dollar value - $12,000 or $27,000. Most educators equate that dollar
value to the support of an Educational Assistant. The money is not to be used
specifically for the student file that generates the dollars, however, it is
generally accepted that if you were approved as a ‘2 ‘or ‘3’ then
you would have half or full time E.A. support.
Research has demonstrated that an inclusionary climate in a school has benefits
for how teachers teach, and consequently, how all students learn. When funding
is equated to the percentage of educational assistant time, it counteracts
the trend that recognizes that the best investment of resources is to support
and enhance the ability of teachers to respond to the diverse needs of all
students…. With a funding formula that focuses on student deficits as
eligibility criteria for special education, and on resources provided to individual
students rather than to teachers, together with budget cuts that affect non-classroom
staff such as resource teachers, the government has squarely pinned the responsibility
for special learning needs on the students. Where is the accountability for
successful learning outcomes? It is clearly not within the education system
but with the students.
If you consider the profiles for students with intellectual disabilities within
the eligibility criteria, you will note that such students seldom benefit from
academic instruction, but rather have a program that focuses on life skills,
social skills, self-control skills and basic literacy and numeracy skills,
as appropriate. Pathology-based criteria inevitably create barriers to learning
for students with disabilities. The inference then is that these students need
not be in the mainstream if they are not being allowed to participate in the
regular academic curriculum. There lies within our concern for the future of
inclusive education and the hope of high learning expectations. A "medical
model" is fundamentally unsuited to, and inappropriate for, an education
This funding model reflects an ideology that has roots in the eugenics movement.
It is an attempt to provide a structural framework for the institutionalization
of children with intellectual disabilities within the Ontario education system.
In contents and emphasis it is little different from the processes used from
1912 onwards in Ontario to exclude those who were then called "defectives" and
are now called "students with intellectual disabilities" from the
company of their peers. U nder legislation passed because of pressure from
eugenicists, the motivation was "to protect the purity of the white race".
It is not clear what motivates the negative stereotyping present in this funding
formula. It is unacceptable that in 2002 the ideology of the Ontario education
system is still rooted in the misguided theories of the eugenics.
So, in essence, the Ministry has created a funding formula that is questionable
in its accountability from a financial perspective and definitely from a student
learning perspective. The Provincial Auditor correctly identified this as a
huge issue when he examined the special education budget last year.
The ISA system is fundamentally flawed and cannot reach the goal assigned
to it. Funding must be based on accountability for educational outcomes for
students, or at least on accountability for appropriate process. ISA can never
do that. The time and money wasted harming students through the ISA process
must be re-allocated to supporting students and teachers in classrooms, so
that the students ultimately get the benefit. ISA 2 and 3 must be stopped now,
before the completion of cycle 4 this fall, before irreparable harm comes to
more students with disabilities.