How to Effectively Use SEAs to Improve Student Literacy Rates

Updated: Mar 29

By Shawna Audet


In 2016, the average BC public school special education budget "covered just 58 per cent of what school districts ultimately spent on special education" (Rosworski, 1). When there is not a direct link between needs and funding, there will be a shortfall in services. My work as a private reading remediation teacher and as a public-school teacher in a regular classroom gives me a unique perspective. I see the impact of the lack of funding giving to high incidence categories from multiple perspectives. I know that there are administrators who cut their special needs programs – not because they want to do so – but because they feel that they must balance the budget. I know that there are students who suffer from reading failure who are sitting in regular classroom where they are “included” but not supported because they are not being given access to a proper reading remediation program. The parents of these children are desperate to find help for their children that will result in the children being ability to overcome their disability.


Statistically speaking, in districts where proper reading remediation systems are not in place, there will be a reading failure rate of 30% (Shaywitz). In districts where proper reading systems are in place, that number falls to 5%. One of the negative impacts of not providing funding to the high incidence category is that many school districts will not provide proven reading interventions, which will lead to high rates of reading failure. Economic disparity results because the high incidence students who are suffering from reading failure but come from wealthy families can get help privately. I get two or three calls a week from parents who are looking for private help for a child suffering from reading failure. These parents are usually referred to me by the person who did their psych. ed assessment. They come from all over the province. Parents tell me that the schools are not offering reading remediation programs, so they take matters into their own hands. These parents pay several thousand dollars for the psych-ed assessment and then pay me about $6000.00 to provide their child with the proven one-on-one reading intervention that solves their child’s reading and writing challenges. Families who can’t afford go this route have very few options.


Another impact of not providing funding to high incidence categories is that administrators may try to spread the precious few supports that they have too thin. For example, a special education teacher may be asked to work with groups that are too large or too diverse to be effective. Parents of children with low incidence designations know that their child generates funding and they sometimes express frustration because they think that the funding should be attached to their child. There is a trend among parents of autistic kids to pull their kids out of the public school system and move to homeschooling. These parents get access to their child’s funding and they spend it on private tutors. Once again, this creates economic disparity because only the wealthy can afford to go this route.