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


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

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


Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Peace on the water

Harrison Lake was rather serene recently with the lack of usual traffic… Continue reading

UPDATE: Police oversight agency investigating after shots fired Saturday night in Chilliwack neighbourhood

RCMP reported a ‘distraught male’ fired at police officers on Christina Drive – IIO is on scene Sunday

Prospera Credit Union, Westminster Savings lay off over 100 staff following historic merge

2020 merger was largest credit-union merger in Canadian history

A second wave of COVID-19 is probable, if history tells us anything

B.C.’s top doctor says that what health officials have learned this round will guide response in future

Trudeau to seek 10 days of paid sick leave for Canadian workers, says talks are ongoing

Paid sick leave is key to keeping COVID-19 spread under control, prime minister says

Facing changes together: Your community, your journalists

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world in ways that would have… Continue reading

Vancouver Island hasn’t seen a new homegrown case of COVID-19 in two weeks

Island’s low and steady transmission rate chalked up to several factors

Eight people arrested in Victoria homeless camp after enforcement order issued

Those living in tents were given until May 20 to move indoors

Andrew Weaver says he was ready to defeat John Horgan government

Independent MLA blasts B.C. Greens over LNG opposition

20 dead in COVID-19 outbreak at Langley Lodge

There were two new cases detected, according to the Lodge’s update

44% fewer passengers flew on Canadian airlines in March 2020 than in 2019

COVID-19 pandemic has hit airlines hard as travel remains low

UPDATE: One person dead, two in critical condition after Highway 1 collision in Langley

A man and woman were taken to hospital in critical condition

Commercial rent relief applications open as feds encourage landlords to apply

Program would see government cover 50 per cent of the rent

Most Read