$30,000 Legal Action Targets Govt. Policy
Quality Public Education Coalition
28 July 1999
$30,000 Legal Appeal Launched to defend Special Needs Children
Last Night at a meeting of parents of children with special needs the decision was taken to proceed with legal action against the government in defence of children with special needs. An appeal for $30,000 for the legal challenge was endorsed.
The legal action will take the form of a judicial review in the High Court of the government decision to disestablish special needs units last year. Following this decision several schools have closed their special needs units despite passionate appeals from parents. More units face closure at the end of this year again despite parent opposition.
Two weeks ago the government announced $21.9million in extra funding over three years to help maintain special needs units but the delivery of this funding is a cop-out and parents are losing their choices for the special education of their children.
The problems are -
This funding will leave the children concerned after three years and schools will again face difficulties in keeping units open without tagged funding.
If a child changes schools (eg from Primary to Intermediate) the funding for the child stops and the funds go into a national pool for school clusters.
Schools are still free to close units even if parents strongly support the unit.
The government funding does nothing for parents who had their units closed by school boards last year after the government withdrew its support.
Parents without Section 9 agreements for special education (e.g. parents enrolling their children in schools for the first time) who want their children to be educated in a special needs unit will not be eligible for this funding as the government is refusing to sign new Section 9 agreements for children to enter units.
The funding is not targeted to units so schools will receive this funding irrespective of whether or not they provide choice for parents.
Under this policy many special needs units will be forced to close in the next 3 years as the targeted funding decreases and schools are left to make decisions about the future of special needs units themselves.
In the market environment special needs parents are being let down. While there is a lot of competition for bright students there is no competition for special needs children and they are losing choices across the board. We are not calling for additional funding to sort out these problems. These problems can be fixed without a single extra dollar being spent.
What is required is an ideological shift on the part of the government rather than throwing more money at the problem. To maintain units as a viable quality choice for parents the government must re-establish special units and provide tagged funding directly to them instead of bulk funding the money to school clusters.
QPEC National Chairperson