Letter: Jennex comes through for kids with disabilities

May 26, 2013

By David Sampson, Chair of Equal Education Association of Nova Scotia

In this time where so many want to attack and find fault with this provincial government and its policies, I want to give credit to both the minister of education and the premier on what I feel is an important step forward in equality of education for vulnerable children.

As the chair of EEANS (Equal Education Association of Nova Scotia) and as the father of a child with learning disabilities, I have been advocating, along with the members of EEANS and many other groups, for movement on levelling the playing field for our children.

This advocacy was started many years ago and has carried through governments run by all three parties. For the first time last year, we were given an opportunity to put our views, evidence and suggestions to the NDP caucus and to answer questions. During this meeting, we were asked many questions and had a frank discussion and felt that we had put forward a compelling case.

Within a very short time, we heard back from the minister and after subsequent meetings we had a framework in place that fully addressed our major issues and that will make it possible for at least one group of marginalized students to get the best possible education through a public-private partnership.

The province provides tuition support for children in Designated Special Education Private Schools by transferring an amount based on the average student cost in the public system. The effect on the families of now having this transfer available for as long as a student needs it, instead of an arbitrary number of years, has taken a huge weight off parents who are already being asked to carry a large financial burden in order to ensure the best education for their children.

In fact, the minister and her staff went beyond our expectations and laid out a framework that will hopefully become a model for co-operative exchanges between all the parties dealing with the children.

I want to thank Education Minister Ramona Jennex for taking on this challenge and for her work in convincing the school boards that this was what was best for the children. She made a commitment to us that she would do what was best for the children and she fulfilled that promise and then some.