Independent Distance Learning schools are facing slashed funding by the Ministry of Education, who say they are being fiscally responsible by bringing the funding in line with other independent schools. (Photo supplied: Jessica Browne)

Independent Distance Learning schools are facing slashed funding by the Ministry of Education, who say they are being fiscally responsible by bringing the funding in line with other independent schools. (Photo supplied: Jessica Browne)

Throness speaks out on funding cuts to independent distributed learning schools

Chilliwack MLA calls changes in funding models for B.C.’s 16 IDL schools ‘disturbing’

A $12 million cut in government funding to Independent Distributed Learning (IDL) schools has sparked criticism from both homeschooling parents and the opposition.

Distributed learning is a method that allows students to connect with their teachers from anywhere. There are currently 16 IDL schools listed as active on the Ministry of Education’s website. There are none listed as based in Chilliwack, but there are many families in Chilliwack that use a IDL schools entirely, or in combination with in-class learning at either private or public schools.

The funding change, announced at the start of May but not effective until July 1, caught the attention of Chilliwack MLA Laurie Throness. He calls the funding “disturbing.”

“The NDP have decided to slash funding by $12 million on July 1 for online independent schools – not doing the same for online distance education in public schools,” he said in a Facebook post. “This disproportionately hurts special needs, remote rural, low income and homeschool kids, right in the midst of a pandemic when they’re encouraging more online learning! I find this inexplicable and unacceptable decision, not based on evidence, so disturbing.”

The Ministry of Education website explains the funding changes, saying that “for school years 2012/13 to 2019/20, as set out in the Independent School Regulation (PDF), Group 1 DL independent schools are funded at 63 percent of the public school DL FTE rate. Group 2 schools are funded at 44.1 percent of the same public school DL FTE rate.”

They add:

“Beginning in the 2020/21 school year the DL funding rates will change to: Group 1 independent DL schools will be funded at 50 percent of the public school DL FTE rate, while Group 2 independent DL schools will be funded at 35 percent of the public school DL FTE rate.”

But that information leaves out any rationale for the changes. The Progress contacted the Ministry of Education for an explanation.

READ MORE: From classroom to the living room: B.C. homeschooler has advice for parents

“After extensive consultation through the funding model review, we are modernizing the delivery of online learning programs over the next three school years to better support the new curriculum and ensure every student has consistent access to a quality education,” a ministry representative answered. “The way kids learn in school today has evolved and students are learning both online and in the classroom.”

They say that the previous Liberal government increased funding for independent school online learning in the 2012/2013 school year, which resulted in independent distributed learning schools being funded at a 13 per cent higher rate than the rest of the independent sector. And that funding has increased until this year.

“Independent schools are receiving $138 million or 45 per cent more this school year than under the previous government,” the rep noted. “We’re making things consistent by funding independent online learning at the same funding rate as all other independent schools.”

Some of Throness’ concerns may be eased by other information provided by the ministry.

“To ensure that children with special needs continue to be prioritized, special education funding for those enrolled with independent online schools will not change,” they added.

“These changes cover independent school distributed learning programs only and not distributed learning programs in public schools or for home-schoolers.”

Only one of the 16 IDLs charge tuition fees, a sign to the Ministry of Education that they were being over funded.

“Government funding of independent schools is not intended to cover a school’s full operating costs and yet the vast majority of independent distributed learning schools were able to operate without charging tuition,” they said. “This is simply part of ongoing responsible fiscal management.”

Rhiannon Gascoigne of Chilliwack also has concerns. As a homeschooling mother of six for the past eight years, she says their family just “scrapes by” with one income. She has two special needs kids, a gifted child and one with Type 1 diabetes.

She says her kids “not only learn better at home, but save the public system thousands of dollars because they do not require a TA in class at a public school.”

She says the targeting of IDLs is “unacceptable discrimination.”

“No other students in the province are losing funding,” she says. “Targeting home learners means targeting lower income earners and a large percentage of children with special needs.”

She also feels it may “backfire” on the province, if students can’t get the distance education they have been using and need to enter a regular public school.

“It is because of my family’s financial sacrifice and hard work that there is more money in the public system for those who prefer to send their kids to public school,” she adds. “We don’t deserve to have to pick up more of the cost of our children’s education than we already do. We pay taxes like everyone else and our children are entitled to government support for education. Now is a time to celebrate home learners.”

READ MORE: Association launches French-language games, online tools for families learning at home


@CHWKcommunity
jpeters@theprogress.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

Education

Just Posted

The theme for this year’s Fraser Valley Regional Library Summer Reading Club is “Crack the Case” and Katie Burns, community librarian at the Chilliwack Library, is encouraging people of all ages to sign up. She is seen here at the Chilliwack Library on Friday, June 18, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
Crack the case, read, win prizes with FVRL Summer Reading Club

‘Immerse yourself in other worlds and have a bit of fun while you do it,’ says Chilliwack librarian

Harrison Hot Springs country singer Todd Richard poses for a photo with Mission firefighters. (Photo/Sarah Plawutski)
VIDEO: Harrison country artist Todd Richard plans for a busy, rockin’ summer

Richard and his band look to live shows as restrictions start to lift

Vanessa Dueck.
Snapshots of a Chilliwack father from his loving daughter

Father’s Day memories of special moments shared together

Rachel is a six month old Labrador retriever cross who was found at large. She is seen here at the Chilliwack SPCA on Thursday, June 17, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: Find Me My Furever Home – Rachel at the Chilliwack SPCA

6-month-old puppy found at large, now at Chilliwack SPCA, needs special home

Cpl. Scott MacLeod and Police Service Dog Jago. Jago was killed in the line of duty on Thursday, June 17. (RCMP)
Abbotsford police, RCMP grieve 4-year-old service dog killed in line of duty

Jago killed by armed suspect during ‘high-risk’ incident in Alberta

Marco Mendicino, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship during a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, May 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada to welcome 45,000 refugees this year, says immigration minister

Canada plans to increase persons admitted from 23,500 to 45,000 and expedite permanent residency applications

FILE – Most lanes remain closed at the Peace Arch border crossing into the U.S. from Canada, where the shared border has been closed for nonessential travel in an effort to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, Thursday, May 7, 2020, in Blaine, Wash. The restrictions at the border took effect March 21, while allowing trade and other travel deemed essential to continue. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
Feds to issue update on border measures for fully vaccinated Canadians, permanent residents

Border with U.S. to remain closed to most until at least July 21

A portion of the George Road wildfire burns near Lytton, B.C. in this Friday, June 18, 2021 handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, BC Wildfire Service *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Blaze near Lytton spread across steep terrain, says BC Wildfire Service

Fire began Wednesday and is suspected to be human-caused, but remains under investigation

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

(Black Press Media files)
Burnaby RCMP look for witnesses in hit-and-run that left motorcyclist dead

Investigators believe that the suspect vehicle rear-ended the motorcycle before fleeing the scene

Blair Lebsack, owner of RGE RD restaurant, poses for a portrait in the dining room, in Edmonton, Friday, June 18, 2021. Canadian restaurants are having to find ways to deal with the rising cost of food. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Canadian restaurateurs grapple with rising food costs, menu prices expected to rise

Restaurants are a low margin industry, so there’s not a lot of room to work in additional costs

RCMP crest. (Black Press Media files)
Fort St. John man arrested after allegedly inviting sexual touching from children

Two children reported the incident to a trusted adult right away

A police pursuit involving Abbotsford Police ended in Langley Saturday night, June 20. (Black Press Media file)
Abbotsford Police pursuit ends in Langley with guns drawn

One person arrested, witnesses say an officer may have been hurt in collision with suspect vehicle

Most Read