A Lone Butte mother is speaking out against Independent Online Learning (IOL) cuts set to take effect July 1.
Megan Rolland’s children started out in the public school system but due to health issues had to go a different route.
She’s got four children, the youngest three of which have a rare connective tissue disorder called Loeys Dietz Syndrome (LDS). The disease affects connective tissue throughout the body causing spontaneous arterial and aortic aneurysms. It can also cause ruptures of your hollow organs. The disease can be fatal with many affected individuals also having gastrointestinal issues. Recommendations may include avoiding competitive sports and even light cardiovascular activities.
Her youngest three children could have easily died on the playground if they were hit too hard or knocked over, she says. Additionally, the family made many trips to BC Children’s Hospital. Even for their oldest, who doesn’t have LDS, IOL has been a big help.
“Without doing an IOL program my oldest would have had to be left hours away from us to attend a public school or he would have to miss days or weeks of school while we are at the hospital with younger siblings,” she says. “We were always splitting the family up which can make it hard, financially and stressful on the kids.”
Rolland works full time so it’s good to have an actual teacher involved, as opposed to homeschooling, she says.
“We’re thankful that we have a teacher that oversees making sure that we meet all the criteria for their grades.”
The teacher receives all the homework and helps put together individualized learning plans like in public school, says Rolland.
“I want them to graduate with their Dogwood [diploma]. So that I don’t have to worry that they have to come back and graduate later.”
The family relies on the funding to help them buy the curriculum as well as with some extracurricular activities like physical education, says Rolland.
“I think that we’ll still be able to hopefully buy all of our curriculum and stuff. We’re definitely going to have to buy things out of our own pocket. Mom might have to pick up more shifts at work.”
Thankfully they already had some money set aside for hockey (for their oldest who doesn’t have LDS, the others don’t play contact sport) so that’s just going to go towards that, she says.
The cuts went through when legislation was closed so nobody, including the people elected to represent us, was able to ask questions, she says.
“If it had all gone through the right channels and they’d all voted and that was the way it was going to be then that was a different story,” she says. “Since it didn’t go through the right channels, I’d like to see it put on hold until it can go through the right channels so that it can all be discussed as a democracy.”
There are other families in the South Cariboo in the same situation, she says.
The cuts total $12 million.
A spokesperson for the Ministry of Education says 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.”
Only one of the 16 IDLs charge tuition fees, a sign to the Ministry of Education that they were being overfunded.
“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.”
Dan Davies, MLA for Peace River North and Opposition Critic for Education, called on Education Minister Rob Fleming to delay cuts to Independent Distributed Learning (IDL) schools.
“This cut has come without warning or consultation and is a huge hit to IDL schools across B.C., many of which have already allotted their staffing and budget for the 2020-21 school year and won’t have enough time to adjust for this sudden cut in funding.”
With files from Jessica Peters.