So, what do I think? To begin with, I am thrilled that the original decision that there was an obligation to provide appropriate intensive support to Jeffrey Moore was upheld. There is no question but that the NVDSB made an error in judgment at the time in terms of determining their funding and programme priorities. If I was a parent of a child with learning challenges, who was enrolled in the District at the time, I would feel validated in my beliefs that more could and should have been done.
The question in 2012 however, is what ramification this decision really has for us today. It would be nice to think that the Moore decision was going to open up floodgates of individual and school district funding. That is not going to happen. It would be equally nice to think that, having been slapped on the collective wrists, all school districts were going to ramp up their level of service. That is also, highly unlikely. The reality is that most school districts and probably the Ministry will take a “that was then, this is now” approach and assert that the quality of programmes and services have improved significantly in the last fifteen years. Two key issues that will frame this response will be the fact that the Supreme Court did not find “systemic” discrimination – in other words, funding cuts by the province were not deemed to be automatically responsible for what was perceived to be uneven and discriminatory service reductions at the school district level; and, the ruling really zeroed in on “quantitative” issues not qualitative ones. The range or “intensity” of service was the core issue, not its quality or effectiveness. If the benchmark was set on how well the programme met the needs of each child then we could expect class action suits on behalf of every student in the mainstream who ever failed a course or dropped out without graduating. This decision was about inputs, not outcomes.
So what does that mean for students, parents and schools today? To begin with, the decision should create a higher sensitivity to the responsibility to provide programmes that address (but not necessarily meet) the needs of all learners. It might also lead to school districts looking for creative approaches to providing services that are currently needed but under-delivered. It should be understood, that no school district is going to willingly admit that it is not doing enough for all of the learners in its care. An aggressive or confrontational approach is not likely to open many doors in that regard. On the other hand, there may be some political will to look at contracting out services to schools such as ours or considering a voucher system that would allow parents to “spend” additional provincial funding on the approved programme or service of their choice. In an election year, it is difficult to know whether either of these two options would be palatable to any political party.
There is not much to be gained at this point in trumpeting the “problem” from the rooftops. Our goal should be to position ourselves, as members of the KGMS school community, to be part of the solution.