On Tuesday, February 6, the eve of another round of rotating teacher walkouts, NDP Opposition Leader Carla Beck joined concerned families in Moose Jaw at St. Agnes School to help parents shine a light on what they say are the immediate impacts of school underfunding in the province.
Beck introduced Ashley Harrower, mother of a 5-year-old boy with autism spectrum disorder. Harrower outlined the nature of ASD and the impact it has on those who fall on the spectrum. Ashely explained her son is high functioning with delayed speech, but his diagnosis does not define him as a person.
“He is a brilliant and creative problem solver and has developed passions for space and our solar system, our planet Earth and locations of the countries, and his newest obsession, PacMan,” detailed Harrower.
She explained that her son’s challenges with emotional regulation mean that he has trouble maintaining a calm behavioural state when he’s agitated or over-stimulated. Helping establish self-regulation that allows him to return to a learning state is part of the support he gets from teachers and other school personnel.
During her address, Ashley stated her concern about her son’s educational opportunities because of years of funding erosion. He shares an educational assistant with many other students, and as a result, when he needs one-on-one attention in the overtaxed classroom, he has on occasion been sent home due to lack of staff, resources or appropriate space.
Harrower explained that the province’s promised semi-segregated pilot project is not available in her son’s school due to a lack of space.
“Teachers, principals and support staff work so hard with what they have. But it’s like they are grasping at straws. Everyone is burning out because our school divisions just can’t afford to hire and retain staff,” said Harrower. “Every kid deserves a chance to thrive, but I worry about my son’s future.”
Beck laid the concerns at the government’s doorstep.
“I first ran for public office because I wanted my kids to have a bright future here at home,” said Beck. “It’s sad to see parents, teachers, and school boards being ignored by this government. There’s no greater investment than investing in our kids.”
She criticized the cuts to per student funding which has seen the province going from among the highest levels in the province to one of the worst.