Special Education at the Ministry

The Ministry of Education has made significant changes in how it oversees and funds special education since 1998.

Changes to IPRC Process
Changes to the Identification, Placement and Review Committee (IPRC) process are intended to make it more user-friendly for parents and students who are 16 and older, who now can participate in all IPRC discussions and be present when decisions are made. As well, parents and older students are entitled to have a representative who may assist them to participate in a more meaningful way in the discussions.

Schools must provide an expanded Parent Guide, with more details about the IPRC's responsibilities.
In its decision, the IPRC must outline both the strengths and needs of the student as well as include the student's exceptionality and its definition. This offers a more complete description of the student's profile that helps support the decision for placement in a regular or special class.

The committee must also provide names and addresses of provincial and demonstration schools and list local parent organizations eligible to be on a Special Education Advisory Committee. This makes it easier for parents to understand what will be discussed at the IPRC meeting and gives them a list of resources.

If a parent wants to appeal a committee decision, the appeal board will consist of one member chosen by the school board, one chosen by the parent and a chair selected jointly. Previously, the school board chose two members and the parent chose one.

Now, the committee has specific timelines for identifying and placing students and the responsibilities of the principal are listed clearly.

Individual Education Plan
Each identified student must have an individual education plan (IEP), to be completed within 30 days of placement in a special education program. The IEP is a working document, which must be reviewed and revised as the pupil's strengths and needs change. The IEP travels with the student throughout the student's school career.

The plan must consider IPRC recommendations. The parent and the student, if 16 or over, must be consulted when developing the IEP. Unless gifted, students 14 or older must have a transition plan as part of the IEP, which includes consulting community agencies and post-secondary institutions.

A copy of the IEP goes to the parent and student (who is at least 16 years old) and a current copy is stored in the Ontario Student Record.

Funding Special Education
The basis of all funding is the foundation grant, which provides for the core education for every day-school student in the province. This grant covers the cost of teachers, supply teachers, teaching assistants, classroom computers, library and guidance services, classroom consultants, professionals and paraprofessionals (social workers, computer technicians) and school administrators.

Boards also receive special purpose grants, of which there are 10. One is the special education grant. Boards may also use some money from the other special purpose grants for identified students, for example transportation grant, language grant etc.

The special education grant is layered. The first layer, special education per pupil amount, is based on the number of students enrolled by the board and not just those who have been identified. It also provides the money needed for the majority of exceptional students with mild to moderate needs.
The second layer of funding comes through the intensive support amount grant.

This money allows boards to provide services, usually staff support, for students with more severe needs. This funding is based on student profiles. Each profile, for example autism or learning disability, has clear descriptors of student needs.

Providing Input
At the provincial level, the Minister's Advisory Council on Special Education advises the Minister of Education on any matter related to the establishment and provision of special education programs and special education services for exceptional pupils.

It can also respond to proposals from any ministry and identify concerns related to the delivery of special education programs. The council submits an annual report, which is available on the Ministry's web site.

Every district school board must have a Special Education Advisory Committee (SEAC), composed of representatives of local associations interested in special needs children, school board members and others.

These committees make recommendations to their boards on establishing, delivering and developing special education programs and services for exceptional students. SEACs are involved in the annual review of a board's special education plan and annual budget process.

What's Next
The Ministry is considering reviewing the funding based on need as opposed to stable funding to meet the increasing number of high needs students enrolling in the system; training for SEACs; as well as guidelines to develop transition plans as part of a student's IEP.

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