Thursday 21 April 1994

Draft report: Special education


*Chair / Président: Cordiano, Joseph (Lawrence L)

*Vice-Chair / Vice-Présidente: Poole, Dianne (Eglinton L)

Bisson, Gilles (Cochrane South/-Sud ND)

*Callahan, Robert V. (Brampton South/-Sud L)

*Crozier, Bruce (Essex South)

*Frankford, Robert (Scarborough East/-Est ND)

*Marchese, Rosario (Fort York ND)

Marland, Margaret (Mississauga South/-Sud PC)

*O'Connor, Larry (Durham-York ND)

Owens, Stephen (Scarborough Centre ND)

*Perruzza, Anthony (Downsview ND)

*Tilson, David (Dufferin-Peel PC)

*In attendance / présents

Substitutions present / Membres remplaçants présents:

Mathyssen, Irene (Middlesex ND) for Mr Bisson

Wilson, Gary, (Kingston and The Islands/Kingston et Les Iles ND) for Mr Owens

Also taking part / Autres participants et participantes:

Office of the Provincial Auditor:

Peters, Erik, Provincial Auditor

Peall, Gary R., director, education and training, housing and municipal affairs audit portfolio

Clerk / Greffier: Decker, Todd

Staff / Personnel: Anderson, Anne, research officer, Legislative Research Service

The committee met at 1016 in committee room 2.


The Vice-Chair (Ms Dianne Poole): We will be continuing our work in reviewing the draft report on special education. As I recall, I think we were last discussing pages 6 and 7 of the report. Do we have any comments to start with from our researcher?

Ms Anne Anderson: I think at the end of last week we'd just finished off page 5 and were about to start the section on page 6.

Mr Robert V. Callahan (Brampton South): I was at page 12.

Ms Anderson: You were at page 12.

That's headed "Ensuring a Cost-Effective Service," so unless there are comments about the earlier material --

Mr David Tilson (Dufferin-Peel): I just have a question. Unfortunately, I wasn't present during the hearings but I have discussed with Mrs Cunningham, who was present, an issue that I raised last week. I think I know what "value-for-money audit" means. What I'm not sure of is what a value-for-money audit is with respect to evaluating a service with respect to special education.

The Vice-Chair: Perhaps we could have the auditor comment.

Mr Erik Peters: The way we structure these value-for-money audits, essentially, it's fundamentally a five-step process where we are taking the legislative objectives and going through the five steps. The end result is, are they achieving the objective that is set out in the act or not, and that's what we would focus on. So what we would say, and we go through the ramifications: In stating the objectives themselves we make a distinction between those that they feel they can measure and report and those that they only have quantitative information on, number one.

Then, secondly, do the ministry and the body that is responsible for delivering the education actually deliver the service in accordance with the objectives?

So it's strictly objective-oriented and results-oriented, like outcomes. Here the fundamental question was that the act itself, for example, says there are certain entitlements, for all children in Ontario with exceptionalities, from the school system. Now, how do the schools boards go about delivering that? Are they identifying the children properly? Once they are identified, are they getting the service that they're supposed to get under the act?

Mr Tilson: How do you do that? Not you, but how is that determined?

Mr Peters: Firstly, it's through these two committees, the identification and placement review committee, IPRC, and the special education advisory committee, SEAC. There is supposed to be a committee structure that acts as an adviser and advocate for the parents of the child, and that is supposed to be staffed with sufficient specialists who can analyse not only what the condition of the child is but, at the same time, develop a course of action as to what services are supposed to be provided to that particular child. What we are looking at is, what is the quality of these mechanisms that are in place? Do these committees do their job? Do the specialists do their job? Do they have the specialists? That's why, for example, we pointed out that some schools may have only a part-time person who sort of from 3 to 5 on Mondays looks at these activities, while other schools have a whole barrage of specialists in place to assess them.

Because you are our client, we have to look at the province as a whole. We are saying that, for example, if you have a child with an exceptionality in one school board, you have a good chance of that child being properly serviced, but if you have the same condition in the school board 15 miles down the road, you probably haven't got a chance.

Mr Tilson: That's whether or not a program is offered 15 miles down the road.

Mr Peters: That's right.

Mr Tilson: It might not even be offered because of different restraints or whatever; maybe it's not mandated.

What I'm getting at, which is a general question which I asked -- I didn't really ask it; it was just a statement that I made -- is that you may have a service with respect to special education, and there are all kinds of services. I'm looking specifically at page 6 where we're evaluating the quality or effectiveness of a program or service in relationship to its cost. I guess what I'm looking at is, as the Provincial Auditor, are you confident that there is a value-for-money system of evaluation, particularly with respect to the delivery of a service?

Mr Callahan: If you take a look at page 5, it'll tell you no.

Mr Peters: I think you're referring to the sentence where it says, "The Provincial Auditor observed that neither of the conditions required to ensure cost-effective and appropriate delivery of special education programs and services were in place."

Mr Tilson: Yes.

Mr Peters: Yes, we are, largely because of the levels of responsibility. What we're really concerned about here is that the ministry itself, under the Education Act, is charged with the delivery not only of the service, but that the service have certain qualities to it. And essentially, under the system as it is right now, the actual service delivery is left to the individual school boards. Our auditee was the ministry and our question was, to the ministry, "How do you know that your act is administered consistently across the province," because it's a provincial piece of legislation, "and that the service is delivered appropriately to each Ontario child?" What we are saying is that the ministry did not have the wherewithal to ensure -- they did not monitor necessarily what was going on, nor did they get necessarily all the plans and have an appreciation of the results that each school board was trying to achieve.

So we're confident in our finding, to begin with, at the ministry level. We are not confident of our findings, of course, at the school board level because we don't audit school boards. There we are basing our conclusions essentially on interviews, on information that the school boards provided to us, that schools provided to us, that educators provided to us.

Mr Tilson: I guess you're saying really two things. You're saying, getting back to Mr Callahan's valid point, that the procedures aren't adequate from the ministry, so therefore the evaluation of the school boards obviously isn't adequate.

Mr Peters: That's right.

Mr Robert Frankford (Scarborough East): Staying very much on the same points, I notice here it says a value-for-money is an evaluation of the quality or effectiveness of a program. If I understand right, one can audit things for process or for outcome. I'm somewhat familiar with this in terms of looking at health care, and I can see that it should be the same in education. Now, I can see that the outcome has its problems in being evaluated, but I'm sure it's not impossible. Are we saying that this is something that you do, or is it too broad? Is there not really a mandate to be looking at the outcome of programs?

Mr Peters: Yes, your assumption is correct. If I may just direct you to recommendation 2 that is in this report on page 9, I believe the researcher has quite realistically captured what I think we recommended and what we suggest that actually the committee recommended in going on, in saying that the Ministry of Education and Training should establish procedures to enable regional offices to monitor the costs. We would like to add "costs and effectiveness of special education programs and services delivered by school boards and facilitate the sharing of best practices among school boards," because this would be one way in which the ministry can actually discharge its responsibility.

To get very briefly into the second part of your question which deals with effectiveness as such, that is outside our purview. The Audit Act says to us that we shall report on situations where effectiveness is measured but not reported, or not measured at all. That's what we comment to you on, because if we went into effectiveness ourselves, we would stray into a policy side. We are staying on the administration side and the administrative procedures.

Mr Frankford: This recommendation 2 on page 9, the ministry "should establish procedures...to monitor the effectiveness," this could say you should set up some standardized reporting systems, something which is set up as a routine; that you could be relating, say, reading levels with participation in a program or something.

Mr Peters: That's right, yes. They could make the demand of saying, for example, what are your plans to identify all students with exceptionalities? Which exceptionalities can you deal with and which can't you deal with? This sort of thing.

Mr Frankford: Yes, although I would say that's a bit different. That's more the process of, what have you got set up? But I'm saying, having set up the program and having had children go through it, how do we know that it did anything?

Mr Callahan: That's policy.

Mr Peters: Yes, it's policy, and we have to assume that was the legislators' intent when they passed the Education Act with the provisions for special education that are in the Education Act, that they were outcome-oriented in that. They are very outcome-oriented in the wording. What we're saying is, you can't know what your outcomes are if you don't measure and report what you're doing.

Mr Frankford: That's the responsibility of the ministry, which they could delegate to an academic body like OISE, the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, if they wanted, for instance.

Mr Peters: If they decided to do that, I'm not sure what the legality of the situation would be. They would have to probably examine that. But I guess they can assign the responsibility for it to the various bodies.

Mr Frankford: Okay, thank you.


Mr Bruce Crozier (Essex South): Madam Chair, through you to the auditor, we've discussed that first paragraph on page 6 and the two recommendations on page 9, but just above the recommendations, where it says, and this is for my own information and satisfaction, "the Provincial Auditor's proposals." So, sir, you sit down with them; you have recommendations to make in detail as to how they may satisfy your recommendations? Do you discuss that, these inefficiencies and what they might do to come to your recommendation?

Mr Peters: We do discuss it but we are not very specific on the "how," for two specific reasons: Firstly, we are not educators or specialists in the particular field; the people in the ministry are. The second one is, there normally are a number of options available as to how to do it. If we came down on one option and that was not the option that the experts would say is the correct option, we would probably negate the impact of the audit process, so we'd rather leave it open-ended. We describe in detail what has to be done, why it should be done, what the risk is of not doing it, and we make the recommendation along those lines, rather than going into a very specific recommendation as to the "how." Does that answer your question?

Mr Crozier: I think so, yes.

Mr Callahan: I want to be clear on something and I don't know whether or not we'd put it in our report. There is a certain amount of money allocated to each pupil for special education, that's my understanding; something like $232 or something.

Mr Peters: That's right.

Mr Callahan: Is your audit able to determine, without being able to go into the question of value-for-money audit, which the ministry has the power to do or you have under a special power -- can you determine whether or not that money is being used for that purpose or whether it's just being sort of folded over into being used for other purposes?

My concern is that in times of restraint and in times of tight budgets -- and that's why I wanted either assurances that this was happening or conditions attached to the money so that it had to be put into special education, not only in the regular school board but also on the correctional side of it -- were you able to determine whether that money in fact was being used for that purpose?

Mr Peters: No, we were not, because the school boards are not subject to audit by us.

Mr Callahan: Is there any mechanism where the ministry would check that out?

Mr Gary Peall: No. That pot of money is added to the basic enrolment grant. It's just expressed in terms of the number of pupils, so in that sense, it's unconditional. But in an overall scheme of things, the $1.3 billion, which we very conservatively estimated being spent on special ed, is more than the amount that that translates into across the system. While you can't tie it to specific special education programs or services, you can, I think, rightly assume that at least that amount of money is being spent by boards to deliver special education, so we didn't even try to identify it.

Mr Callahan: That's not a matter of concern, but I guess appropriately being able to identify kids who have that problem and the monitoring of the programs to ensure that they're following what is required, I suppose -- well, okay. I'm concerned about that further item, that this money is not being used for some other purpose, it's not being just rolled in to cover some other area. But you're satisfied that the amounts, as best you can be --

Mr Peall: Like Mr Peters said, we couldn't confirm in terms of our audit work, because we can't audit the boards in that respect. It's possible that some boards spend far less -- and in fact do -- than others, so it potentially could happen that a board spends less than the amount that translates from the ministry for special ed. But our main point is that we're concerned about those variances and the fact that no one really looks at what the costs and effectiveness are of the various programs and services that are offered. It may be that a board that spends twice as much as the ministry gives it on special ed isn't spending the money wisely; conversely, maybe it is, and meeting needs much more effectively.

Mr Callahan: That goes back to the question David asked about the issue that a school 15 miles down the road may have no special education at all yet is receiving that grant and not using it, because they're not being monitored in terms of identifying kids or providing programs and therefore that money is sort of found money for them that's not being used for the purpose for which it was allocated. If that's the case, and you're saying the $1.3 billion represents a multiplication of the per capita student amount that's allocated to special ed, it means some boards spend more than the allocation.

Mr Peall: Oh, yes.

Ms Dianne Poole (Eglinton): When I read through the auditor's report and then pages 6 to 9 of the report prepared by Anne, my understanding is "There are no overall ministry procedures for monitoring the delivery of the programs and services by the boards." This line is repeated at the bottom of page 8 and the top of page 9. Therefore, I'm wondering exactly what the ministry has initiated, because if you look at the next sentence, which is near the top of page 9, it says: "To address this question, the ministry has initiated monthly meetings with regional offices in order to review the issue of establishing procedures to evaluate the delivery of programs and services."

I'd just like that clarified. Is the ministry having these monthly meetings in order to establish procedures, or are they just going to talk about whether they want to or feel it's appropriate? How far has the ministry taken this?

Ms Anderson: There are two monitoring things that are discussed here. One is the monitoring of the special education plans, whether they comply with the legislation and set programs in place. That was the first part of it. The second major thing was how the regional offices ensure that programs and services established in those plans are actually delivered. That's the second part that you're addressing.

The ministry has just initiated some discussions with the different regional offices on how they might be able to do this. I don't think they've progressed very far down that road at the moment. They've got further along in the guidelines in the first section, how to improve the monitoring of the special education plans.

Ms Poole: Just so I'm perfectly clear, the regional offices are not the ones that are formulating these guidelines and establishing the procedures. They're more interested in how they could monitor and deliver after the head office has formulated them. Would that be correct?

Ms Anderson: There are some issues involved in terms of how you can evaluate each of the individual school boards when they all have different ways of delivering it. I think they're just looking at the process issue, initially anyhow.

Ms Poole: So the way it's worded, "to review the issue of establishing procedures," would be accurate. They're not actually at the stage where they would be trying to establish --

Ms Anderson: I can confirm that.

Mr Peall: If I can just add to that, they're in the process of reviewing the whole regional office structure and role, and that's in conjunction with not just this but also curriculum development and the whole monitoring of boards. I think that's why they worded it, or at least Anne has worded it, that way. I'm not sure how far they've gone and I'm not sure they know yet what the exact role of the regional offices should be and consequently how they should be staffed to achieve it.

Ms Poole: I just wondered whether, as far as our recommendations go, the ministry and the regional offices are already implementing them. In fact, they're at the beginning stages because of their restructuring, and this is one of the issues they're reviewing but they haven't got as far as our recommendations.


Mr Tilson: My question may just have been answered, and I repeat that I wasn't present during the hearings, unfortunately, so my questions may appear to be naïve, but such is life.

I assume we're now talking about the subject of monitoring compliance. My question is to the auditor. I look at the two recommendations, and we say regional offices are poorly equipped, we say the committee is concerned that school boards offer a consistent level of service. It may well be that I don't understand what the regional offices do. Looking specifically at your recommendations, should regional offices do the monitoring? Is it impossible, financially or otherwise, for the ministry directly to do the monitoring? We're saying throughout that they're not capable of doing it, they're poorly equipped to do it, but should this monitoring process, once you have a monitoring system established -- I gather we don't even have one yet -- be done by the regional office or should it be done by the ministry? You're saying the regional office, but my question is, why can't the ministry do that directly?

Mr Peters: That is a very good question. We are, as auditors, normally fairly hesitant of speaking to organizational structure.

Mr Tilson: So that's a political question, in other words?

Mr Peters: In a way, yes. It's the way the ministry wishes to organize itself.

Mr Tilson: Okay, that's fair. Just to finish on that, because it's a political question, you'd rather not -- but is it completely a political question? What we're trying to do is have the same standard of education across the province. We want the same group of monitors. I don't even know how many different regional offices there are, but will the standard of monitoring be consistent around the province if it's the regional offices that are doing the monitoring?

Mr Peters: There are two parts to your question. Once the standards and the guidelines are in place, whether the delivery mechanism goes through a regional office or is centralized in the ministry is essentially internally a ministry decision. As auditors, we would comment on it if we feel it impedes the work. If, for example, the committee feels it would like to follow a delayering recommendation -- in other words, remove one layer of administration out of the system -- I think that is totally within the committee's own purview.

Mr Tilson: As I said, I can only offer my apologies as I wasn't present at the hearings, but we talk of the cost of delivery of an education service, and there seems to be a bureaucracy here with these regional offices. I have no idea how they got established. I don't know whether the regional offices, the number of people, would then move to the central ministry. I don't know all of that. All I know is that it seems to me there are two things that need to be considered. First, do we have another layer of bureaucracy that may not be needed? Second, would what these regional offices are trying to do around the province, namely, monitor this type of education, be inconsistent, notwithstanding the fact that they're following a handbook of how you monitor things? I don't know. My immediate reaction, not being present at the hearings, is that that is a layer of bureaucracy that may not be necessary.

Mr Peters: I find that a very useful point from an audit perspective. What the committee might wish to consider is amending recommendation 1 to focus on the consistency of the guidelines and sufficient expertise and say that the Ministry of Education and Training should ensure that it has consistent guidelines and sufficient expertise with which to review special education plans of school boards, and thereby stay out of the organizational issue altogether and leave it essentially to the ministry to determine the mechanisms through which it wants to administer and follow up on these guidelines and the sufficient expertise.

I agree with you totally that the recommendation as it stands right now could be read as this committee endorsing the structure of having regional offices. If you're uncomfortable with that, its elimination would be a potential.

Mr Larry O'Connor (Durham-York): How old is the structure that's in place now? How old would the regional structure be?

Mr Rosario Marchese (Fort York): As old as the Tory government.

Mr O'Connor: Oh, we don't want to endorse that.

Mr Marchese: It's archaeological now.

Mr Crozier: I direct the committee to the third paragraph on page 8, halfway through that, where it says "the ministry has recently developed guidelines" and then the next sentence says, "Once the guidelines have been developed...." Is this a contradiction? Have the guidelines been developed or are they being developed?

Mr Callahan: They're in a state of flux.

Ms Poole: Should it be "is developing guidelines"?

Mr Crozier: If it could just be made a little clearer.

Ms Anderson: I'll go back. You're right; that's a good point.

Mr Crozier: Further to wording, in recommendations 1 and 2 and it goes through all the recommendations -- I just need this explained to me why the words are used -- it says, "The Ministry of Education and Training should ensure" and "should establish." In each case it says "should." Would "shall" be too strong a word from an auditor's standpoint?

The Chair (Mr Joseph Cordiano): It turns it from a recommendation into an order. "Should" is the word we always use with recommendations.

Mr Crozier: I'm new at this, and I just needed to have that explained to me.

Ms Poole: On that point, just a very brief comment. The select committee on education one time spent three hours arguing the merits of "shall" as opposed to "should." I'm not sure if we went as far as getting a legal opinion, but we certainly got all sorts of opinions on what each meant. Because our recommendations actually don't have any weight unless the government chooses to implement them, "shall" is only a very strong recommendation and "should" is just not as strong. It depends on how strongly the committee feels in this regard. We could change it to "shall."

Mr Marchese: In the end it wouldn't make a great difference.

The Chair: Mr Tilson on this point, and then Mr Marchese has a question.

Mr Tilson: No. I'm still back on the point I was raising. Suddenly the topic got changed, but --

The Chair: Then Mr Marchese is next on the list.

Mr Tilson: Mr Chair, I was raising a point.

Mr Marchese: I was going to speak to your point. I can speak to it again.

Mr Tilson: Good. We seem to have got sidelined.


Mr Marchese: I just wanted to support the recommendations as they were. As to the words "should" and "shall," Ms Poole has already talked about it. Effectively, it makes no difference in the end, because the recommendation talks about what it should do. "Shall" makes it stronger, but I don't think in the end it makes a great deal of difference.

To Mr Tilson's point, I think it isn't so much a political question as, administratively, is it better to have the central government, the ministry, review all of this, or the regional offices? In the end, they're one and the same, because they work together. My view would be that if you had the ministry administer its monitoring procedures alone, without the regional offices doing it, it would be an overwhelming burden on the ministry to do this. In effect what you would be doing is taking people away from the regional office, bringing them here to the Ministry of Education to do the job that otherwise they would be doing in the regional office. So whether you wanted to centralize --

Mr Tilson: Does one regional office know what the other regional office is doing?

Mr Marchese: But that's the point. My second point, in addition to saying that you would be overly centralizing, I think unnecessarily, deals with the point you just raised. If you have consistent guidelines, which is recommendation 1, that's all you need. Once the regional divisions meet with the ministry officials to establish the guidelines, they then become consistent. Then each region, all six of them, monitors what it has agreed to as a plan.

I'm not sure that what is here does not take care of the previous three pages of concerns that have been listed. My sense is that the recommendations are adequate to do the job we're wanting them to do.

Mr Tilson: I know what the Minister of Education is trying to do to cut down on costs. He's cutting things down: numbers of trustees, other things, perhaps amalgamation of school boards. There are all kinds of things, and we should be looking at that at the same time. It's the delivery of a service: What's the best way with the amount of money available -- in other words, the value for money, I suppose -- the process we should be following?

I understand what you're saying, that it may be the same people, but it may not be as many people. It may well be a central service, a central facility, a central ministry trying to provide a consistent policy. I have observed different boards in my own riding, as maybe all of us have, that are quite different, philosophically and otherwise. You can have books and books of regulations, but for some unearthly reason -- perhaps it's the philosophy of the administration, perhaps it's the philosophy of the trustees; for whatever reason -- it can be a quite different type of education. In fact, the criticism has often been made in this province that we have different qualities of education throughout. Notwithstanding that all three parties when they have been in government have been trying to develop a consistent type of education across this province, I'm not so sure that's occurring. So something's wrong.

Here am I talking without our critic, which is dangerous. But I just look at that issue of regional offices on both of these recommendations. There should be more control, in my estimation. I'm saying this without our critic being present, but in my view, philosophically there should be more control of the monitoring process by the central office.

The Chair: If there are no further matters --

Mr Tilson: Mr Chair, I can see that the term in the recommendations isn't going to change, but I just wanted to put on the record what my view is. I'm concerned with the wording of these two recommendations.

The Chair: Am I to take it that there is general agreement that the wording ought to be changed in some fashion? Mr Marchese?

Mr Marchese: No. I understand what Mr Tilson is getting at, but I think these recommendations get to the matter. What you want are consistent guidelines. If there are inconsistent guidelines, you have divergencies in all the boards. What is lacking are the consistent guidelines, but once you have them, recommendation 2 says "establish effective monitoring mechanisms" to make sure that is being done. That's really all you need.

With respect to the fact that some boards are different one from the other, that's just a given. We as a central government, as a provincial government, establish central kinds of responsibilities for boards, and then each board is allowed, based on its own needs, to do different things, to the extent they're capable of fund-raising with their own property taxes, for example. But on the whole, there are certain central responsibilities.

What we're saying here around the one issue of special ed is, establish the guidelines, provide -- I know "sufficient expertise" is vague; it's always a problem when you have words like "sufficient." But it says establish the expertise and then put the monitoring mechanisms in place to make sure it's being done. What more can you do?

Mr Tilson: With respect to that, the recommendations say two things: one, that the ministry should establish that the regional offices have sufficient guidelines.

Mr Marchese: "Consistent guidelines."

Mr Tilson: That's right. The second thing that the recommendation says deals specifically with the regional offices monitoring the service, and it's that area that I have some questions about. You may be right, but my initial reaction to this, and I haven't been through the hearings, is that there's something there that creates a diversity which I'm not so sure we want. But enough said. Mr Marchese and I have probably had our say.

Mr Peters: Maybe in the two, though, possibly if we could have agreement to make some slight modification, because I still appreciate Mr Tilson's point that by leaving in the regional offices, which are ministry offices not school board offices, we are perpetuating potentially an organizational form that maybe even the ministry might want to delete.

With indulgence, I would like to propose that with a minimum change of words, you might wish to have number 1 read, "The Ministry of Education and Training should ensure that it has consistent guidelines and sufficient expertise with which to review the special education plans of school boards."

Mr Marchese: Sure. That's fine.

The Chair: Leave it open.

Mr Peters: Leave open which organizational structure they want to do, because that's what you're after.

In number 2, I would make the proposal to add the words "costs and" before "effectiveness" so that it reads, "The Ministry of Education and Training should establish procedures which enable it" -- again -- "to monitor costs and effectiveness of special education programs and services delivered to school boards and facilitate the sharing...."

Again, we take the regional aspect out as an organizational matter in the ministry and we add "costs" to the monitoring features. There's elsewhere "costs" specifically, but this may be a good point to put it in.

Ms Poole: I just wanted to comment on that. I can see why you take out the regional offices, because it is the Ministry of Education and Training that should develop the guidelines; that's a central role. But in number 2, the ones who are going to monitor the costs and effectiveness will be the regional offices. I think that's a very practical way it's going to happen. Yes, the ministry might have the ultimate authority, but I can see that it's the regional offices that will be directly looking after this. I can see Mr Marchese is anxiously looking at me.

Mr Marchese: No, not anxiously. I understand what Mr Tilson was getting at. If the tool eventually is the regional office, having "it" refer to the ministry is all right because what he wants is to make sure that the ministry is monitoring.

Number 1 says that it have consistent guidelines, and 2 is that it monitors. If it does it through the tool or the mechanism of the regional office, that's fine, but at least he's assured that the ministry is the final overseer of both its guidelines and its monitoring policy. So I think it's okay.

The Chair: Agreed. Moving on to the next section, "Financial Transparency."

Ms Anderson: This section addresses some of the things that Mr Callahan was bringing up earlier to do with the amount that is spent on special education through the various sources, whether it's through the general legislative grant structure or through the board-specific or program-specific programs. It identifies the amount of money that appears to be spent on each but points to the problems that have been spoken to, that it's hard to identify the costs very specifically either for any one school board or for special education in general. That makes the whole question of cost-effectiveness difficult to evaluate.


It's in the first paragraph of that section at the bottom of page 9, which talks to the Provincial Auditor's estimate of $1.3 billion spent on special education, that being derived from school board reports. I point out that there's no separate accounting of quite a lot of the different items.

Then on page 10, just go through the different ways that schools receive money for special education. It's partly through the per pupil grant amount, and so for primary and elementary, it's $285 out of the $4,034 per pupil grant. That amount is assigned to special education. At the secondary level the amount is $211. This amount comes on a per capita basis but just goes to the school boards, and the school boards can use it in the way they deem appropriate.

In addition to those, there are the specific grants. One is in lieu funding that gives grants for salaries and benefits to specialist teachers and teacher aides to boards that offer special education for blind, deaf and blind-deaf pupils who would otherwise attend a provincial school.

Section 27 of the GLG regulations pays for salaries and benefits for teachers and teacher aides in educational programs for children who are in correctional facilities or who are in various care or treatment homes. There are also compensatory grants that are given to boards to help address some of the difficulties for boards who have students who are economically or socially disadvantaged.

Mr Callahan: In looking at that figure under paragraph 2, the $66.2 million that was funded through the ministry in 1993 under agreements for people who are placed in care, treatment or correctional facilities, what does that work out to in terms of the numbers of people who were serviced?

At the rate of somewhere between $285 and $211 per capita for each child, it seems to me there's either an incredible amount of people in correctional facilities who are receiving special education, in which case that should form the subject of its own committee hearing in fact, or in the alternative there's an awful lot of money being suggested as being spent there that's not being spent there, that's perhaps being spent in some other place within the educational system outside of the correctional system.

I don't imagine there's any way you can tell us the answer to that question. But I'd like to know the answer, and maybe you can do it and provide it afterwards. In the mathematics, is there any way of figuring out what that $66.2 million translates into, what the number of people in correctional services care and treatment is, for us?

Mr Peters: Okay, I'll make a note.

Mr Callahan: If we find that out, I'd like that to be a footnote, if the committee is in agreement, that the observation that's made is that the $66.2 million translates into x number of people and therefore demonstrates that there must be a significant -- the hypothesis I put forward during the hearings was that a lot of these people who are in correctional facilities are there for two reasons.

First of all, their learning disability has not been diagnosed or has been misdiagnosed, or in the alternative, they've never been diagnosed, or in the alternative, they've never received adequate special education. They get to grade 9 or so and lose interest in themselves and become asocial.

I'd like that in there for the very reason that I think that should become the subject of a total committee to determine what money we're going to spend potentially down the line five years from now if we don't start spending money now to perhaps identify just about every kid, at least young offenders, who go into a facility.

Ms Anderson: I can certainly add some footnotes to that effect, but I just wanted to point out too that after the hearings with Correctional Services, they provided some information on the funding of their section 17 programs in correctional institutions that gives some total dollars.

It doesn't give the amount per capita, I think partly because a lot of the inmates are there for only short periods of time and to give a per capita amount I think would be hard to calculate. But if you would like, I can incorporate some of the data that come from that ministry in this as well.

Mr Callahan: I would like that, if the other members are in agreement with it. I think it perhaps clarifies and strengthens both aspects. It strengthens the aspect of putting more dollars into special education identification and training in the schools to avoid them getting into the correctional facility, and it also attempts to try and get kids, particularly young offenders who wind up in closed custody or even open custody, identified so that we don't spend more money down the line in terms of welfare or the penitentiary system or the adult correctional system.

Under the Young Offenders Act there's actually a provision that a judge can order an assessment of a kid to determine if they've got a learning disability. It's not exercised, in my view, significantly enough by judges, because I guess they either don't know it's there or they don't consider it to be important. But I would think that would be the most critical part of determining a sentence for a kid, to determine whether or not that kid has a learning disability, because if you don't, by grade 9 you can be sure that they'll be out there acting out their antisocial activities.

Mr Frankford: This raises some interesting questions that I wonder if I can get some clarification on. Is the need for special education considered correlated with economic and social disadvantage overall, and then is this sort of extra ground something that is added to it or is this something which exists on its own? Is this extra money to address a really pressing need which the special education program payments in themselves don't satisfy?

I would also be very interested to get just some indication of where or what type of boards we're talking about that need this additional funding for economic and social disadvantage. Are we talking about urban versus rural or, as a member for one part of Metro, is Scarborough or some other municipality or local board worse or better than other parts? I think it raises a lot of interesting questions which would be quite helpful to get a perspective on what the needs are.

The Chair: Perhaps Ms Anderson could comment.

Ms Anderson: I think the compensatory grants are not confined to children's special education needs but it would incorporate some of those children. Perhaps some of the reasons they have different needs might be for reasons of nutrition or other ones that would stem from social difficulties. I can see if I can find out which boards receive those grants, if that would be useful to you.

Mr Peters: May I briefly comment again? The recommendation again tries to address this by asking that: "The ministry should accelerate the education finance reform project in order to provide full transparency of funding decisions. In the meantime, the ministry should" -- and again I would make the recommendation to Anne to take the regional structure out of here -- "monitor more closely the use of provincial grants by the school boards in their jurisdictions," which would seem to cover the compensatory funds for Correctional Services as well as the funds given to school boards to deal with socially disadvantaged children, which both seem to be captured.


Mr Frankford: Just one other point, if I could have it clarified. Am I correct that there's also ESL funding or other specific funding that comes from the feds which is not mentioned here?

Mr Peall: Yes, there is some of that money that goes into the provincial treasury, so it's up to the province to then turn around and have its own funding programs for that, and there are ESL grants that come from the province directly. To my knowledge, no money comes directly from the feds to a school board.

Mr Frankford: The amounts that are transferred by the feds don't necessarily recognize the needs or the growing needs --

Mr O'Connor: The realities for Ontario.

Mr Frankford: -- and I'll put in a mention for Scarborough, which I believe has the highest growth of needs. Thank you.

Mr Marchese: Just a few things in relation to what Mr Callahan was saying. I think it would be useful to look at not the correlation, but the point he makes is that if you do prevention early on, then you avoid what eventually they get into later on, which becomes more costly for society.

Whether the connection is to special education, however, as the only prevention -- I'm sure you wouldn't be saying the only prevention, but rather one of the things that, if you detected it early, would be helpful, because prevention goes beyond merely special education identification. If you don't look at all the other factors that make learning very difficult for a child, it won't solve it. So yes, special education identification is one of those factors, but I think when we talk about prevention we need to look at the broader picture.

I just wanted to comment on Dr Frankford's comment by saying that there is obviously a strong correlation between special ed and economically disadvantaged children. There's no doubt that is indeed the case. But as Ms Anderson was saying, there are other connections. There are other compensatory programs that are connected to other problems as well that students face.

Mr Callahan: Mr Chairman, just on that point I'd just like to say for the purposes of the record that I would think that if an investigation was done of pre-sentence reports over the last five or 10 years of kids sentenced, in 90% of them you'd find the phrase, "This person had a learning disability which went undiagnosed." I think that's even something that the Solicitor General's office might want to undertake as a project because I think it really is there. That emphasizes what I'm saying, that that is a cause.

The second thing is that in addition to the economic parts that Dr Frankford says, there's also the genetic. There's evidence that learning disabilities are genetically transmitted from one generation to the next. So what you've in fact got is a predictable ratio of people who will be affected by it, which would give you some idea of the net cost of what it will be if we don't use moneys now, wisely, to deal with it.

Ms Poole: This is not really a substantive point, but it's a point about language. I don't know. Other members may or may not share this concern.

"Transparency" is one of the new buzzwords, along with things like "paradigm shift" and "electronic superhighway," and it bothers me that we use some of these words. I understand why we use them. It's nice to have one word that can say a whole range of things, but I'm wondering whether all the educators, for instance, who would read this report, and perhaps the parents involved in special education -- whether this is a word that for them might have the same meaning that we know it to have. I don't know. You may want to leave it in, but I just have a bias against using the buzzwords without any explanation of what they actually mean.

Mr Marchese: Disclosure? Full disclosure?

Ms Poole: Full disclosure and clarity of what the finances mean, just if there could be, after the first time it's used, a little bracket explaining what it means.

The Chair: I was just going to say perhaps we should have a glossary of buzzwords.

Mr Peters: The researcher has provided, just in the paragraph above, wording that I must confess I really like, and that is that "transparency is...to enable the public to understand how their education dollars are spent."

Ms Poole: What page are you on?

Mr Peters: Right on page 12. There's a sentence that starts with, "As well as enhancing accountability, this financial transparency is also of utmost importance to enable the public to understand how their education dollars are spent." This understanding of the public is, from the audit perspective, one of the items that we're really after in the transparency. So it could read, "...should accelerate the education finance and reform project in order to provide a full understanding to the public as to how their education dollars are spent," something along those lines.

Mr Marchese: In this particular context, actually, "transparency" makes sense to me.

Ms Poole: Yes, it works. I'm not saying it's inappropriate; I'm just saying we often use jargon that only a limited number of people understand. When we had the deputy minister in he was talking about edubabble -- was that what he called it? -- using all these jargony phrases that this inner group knows what they mean, but everybody else out there --


The Chair: I just make a small comment with regard to words like "transparency." That's such a catchall phrase that it really is irrelevant when you don't detail what that might mean. What's transparent to you and me may not be transparent to others. It sets the general direction and the tone, but I think at the end of the day it really does not get at what is a full accounting, and that's another catchall phrase that we use around here quite extensively. What we mean by that is one thing on this committee.

We can get into semantics and pretty detailed debate around that. I just think that when we try to draft our recommendations, if they're specific and attached to a specific issue and area of concern, then we would begin to use consistency in the words that we use so that there is some kind of understanding. That's really all you can hope for.

Mr Marchese: So what are you recommending?

The Chair: I'm recommending that if we want to use "full transparency," that kind of a phrase, then it has to be consistent with everything else that we've said about that. Otherwise, that has no bearing on what we mean, for example, with regard to "full accounting," which has been a question that continues to evade everyone around what is value for money, what is full accounting? There are degrees of definition around that.

I kind of agree with what you're saying, but it's not to say that we shouldn't continue to use phrases like that; it's just that I think it's incumbent upon us to be as detailed about what we mean when we make recommendations, which is difficult to do.


The Chair: Like the typical politician that I am, I basically concluded very little.

Ms Poole: I recommend that if we are to use the word near the very beginning of the section, right after we first use the word, we explain what we mean by it.

The Chair: I think it's difficult to do that. For an area like "value for money," it's an ever-evolving kind of definition. We're moving it forward and others are still trying to catch up with what "value for money" is in a particular area.

Mr Gary Wilson (Kingston and The Islands): I'm not quite sure what Ms Poole's getting at here. It's clear to me what it means. You can just turn to something as fresh as this morning's paper and see, "Premier Bob Rae has demanded open and transparent negotiations between Ottawa and the provinces."

Mr Marchese: Translucent.


Mr Gary Wilson: I think most people will recognize what he he's getting at when they say "transparent." They know that it has to be an open process, that people can clearly see what's going on.

Ms Poole: All I'm saying is that it is not in the normal jargon people use. If you went home to your spouse and said, "I think there should be financial transparency in our relationship," they would look at you as though you'd lost your mind. If you said, "I think our finances should be clear, open and disclosed," they would know what we meant. That's my only point. I don't say to take the word out. Just explain what we mean.


The Chair: Order, please.

Mr Callahan: If I may. What a disgrace. You've suddenly come in and turned this into a partisan -- I mean, why do you do that? You do that every time. It's being turned into a partisan event.

The Chair: Order. Mr O'Connor has the floor.

Mr Callahan: You should know what you're talking about.

The Chair: Order. Mr O'Connor, please.

Mr O'Connor: Thank you, Mr Chair. I appreciate the opportunity to follow this transparent conversation that we've had.

Mr Gary Wilson: I think it's become a bit opaque.

Mr O'Connor: Just to touch on that before I move on to the point I want to make, I agree with Ms Poole that the language we use as politicians quite often loses people out there in the real world. I don't know how many people would use "transparent" in this venue in their everyday language; I don't think that many, so I don't know. It's kind of an awkward word, and I think maybe a yuppie word, whatever, a nouveau word or something. I don't think maybe it's the best way, or maybe we have to explain it better.

The concern I want to raise comes along something that Dr Bob has raised, and maybe further along on the special education and then maybe special grants that come through the federal government for special areas of need.

I'm looking at, in my own riding, the aboriginal community that I have there, knowing that our special funds come through from the federal government for some of these needs. I'm not sure how that is directed down through to the local school boards, but with the discussion we had about ESL, I know we're not receiving our adequate share of financial support from the federal government for this type of program, programs that are necessary. I think it probably would be incumbent on us just to put something in that paragraph that mentions that, not in part of a recommendation but just that this committee recognizes that, especially here within the GTA, we do see a huge influx of new Canadians, immigrants who come through to this area, and we're not receiving adequate funding for those purposes.

As Bob raised the thing about ESL, I wondered if maybe I could request Anne to get us a little bit of background information on how that may come about for the native population that is here within the province and is again, then, a special need. I know I have a native school within my riding that goes up to grade 5. How any special funding goes to them, I'm not exactly sure, and I think there might be some useful information for us, especially as we are dealing with this pretty transparent part of our report.

Ms Anderson: I understand Ms Poole's comments about the words and I can certainly try and come up with something else. I think it needs to be probably more than "disclosure," in the sense that in my mind "disclosure" doesn't mean that the public necessarily can see or know.

Ms Poole: Clarity and understanding. It comprises a lot of these words, and that's why it's neat to use it, because it's one word. But if it can't be understood, then our message is lost.

Ms Anderson: I think there probably are people who might have some difficulty with it, so I'll work with it and come back to you.

Mr Marchese: I agree with the auditor. The preceding paragraph uses the word "transparency" and explains it. Unless you separate the recommendation from the text -- that would create a problem in terms of what Ms Poole is saying. If, however, the text and the recommendation go hand in hand, the previous paragraph says, "As well as enhancing accountability" -- it uses the word "accountability" there -- "this financial transparency is also of utmost importance to enable the public to understand how their education dollars are spent and to improve the credibility of the education system. The committee wishes to ensure that procedures are in place as soon as possible that will enable the ministry to trace the funding."

In two sentences, it explains transparency in a way, and then uses the word "transparency" in the recommendation. So I'm not sure that I would struggle too long to find another word in this regard.

The Chair: The last paragraph on page 11 really quite nicely deals with that because it reads: "The committee appreciates that the ministry has begun the process of finding ways to improve financial transparency. The committee remains concerned, however, that until recommendations from the Education Finance Reform Project are implemented, the ministry will be unable to trace provincial funds such as compensatory grants that are allocated to special education."

So that really details what it is that we're talking about. My point is just consistency and being able to attach it to something that you can point to and say this is what we mean, and therefore, I think it's reasonable.

Mr Callahan: The regular Joe is going to maybe read this; who knows? I doubt it.

The Chair: Is anybody going to read this?

Ms Poole: I think the people who might read this who would have difficulty with it are those parents involved with the special education process, and even the teachers who are involved in special education might not use that type of language. I didn't mean to make this big a deal about it.

Mr Callahan: You were very transparent.

Ms Poole: That's right. I had just wanted very early in the process, not at the end of the section but at the very beginning, to explain what we meant by transparency, and that's all.

The Chair: Shall we move on?

Mr Marchese: We support the recommendation on page 12, correct?

The Chair: Yes.

Ms Anderson: I would just like to ensure I have the recommendation you agreed to because I know you made some comments and I didn't quite catch them all.

The Chair: I think it was just to remove the --

Ms Anderson: "Instruct the regional offices"?

The Chair: "Regional offices," again.

Mr Peters: Then you take "in their jurisdictions" out, because that meant the jurisdiction of the regional offices.

Mr Callahan: It will read, "The ministry should monitor"?

The Chair: "Monitor closely."

Ms Poole: Take out "in their jurisdictions."

The Chair: Right. That's consistent with what we had.

Next section.

Ms Anderson: Last week the committee talked about wanting some comments on cooperation among interministry funding, and I thought that I would add a section in at this point to do that. I haven't written it yet but that's what I propose to do there before the "Audit Arrangements."

The audit arrangements are ones that the committee has been over and discussed. It's really sort of a broader issue than just special education in many ways, talking about the ability of the Provincial Auditor to carry out value-for-money audits of the ministry, but his inability to do that over school boards, and it's really just to establish what the existing arrangements are. I don't know whether or not the committee would like to have anything in there about the motion that they've passed to deal with this or whether this should be something that comes in kind of an overall thing that deals with curriculum development as well as special education.

Mr Peters: May I just make one quick comment? One initial step that could be taken is by taking out the word "financial" and just having "in order to require a greater level of accountability from school boards." At the bottom of page 12 we say, "The committee suggests that the ministry consider strengthening the prescription of duties under this section in order to require a greater level of financial accountability from school boards." I suggest just the removal of the word "financial", "to require a greater," and then it's up to the committee whether you want to refer back to the motion that you made, because you indicated in that motion that was passed last week that you wanted the ministry to arrange for greater accountability.

Mr Marchese: Is that the motion?

Mr Peters: That's the gist of it. I don't have the exact words, but you may want to refer to it at this point.

The Chair: Here's the motion: "The committee recommends that the Minister of Education and Training implement the necessary steps to require that school boards be subject to value-for-money audits. In doing so, the minister may wish to avail himself of section 17 of the Audit Act." So that pretty well clarifies it.


Mr Crozier: Just a comment. I just got back after you finished that section and I had made a note that this was an excellent paragraph because it goes right to the point of our value-for-money audits, I felt. As long as taking the word "financial" out won't weaken that, I would agree. I kind of liked the paragraph the way it is and I was for once going to make a positive comment, but I'd missed that -- as long as it doesn't weaken anything.

The Chair: I think the intent there is not to limit it to financial auditing, but rather to -- a broader scope.

Mr Crozier: Our resolution backs that up, okay.

Mr Callahan: Are we going to incorporate that as a motion, a recommendation, the motion that was passed? I wasn't sure if we had.

Ms Anderson: You want to have the motion as a recommendation as well?

Mr Callahan: Yes. See, Anne wasn't sure either.

The Chair: I'm sorry. I misunderstood. Thank you for clarifying that.

Moving on to page 13, advisory committees.

Ms Anderson: The legislation requires each school board to set up special education advisory committees that have representatives from local parent associations. The SEACs are set up to make recommendations to the board about anything that relates to special education in their area. They can have a positive role. I think a lot of people feel they were very useful but that there are areas where the role of the SEAC has been not as strong as it might have been. Sometimes they get heavily involved in the development of special education plans, but sometimes the boards, I gather, don't include them very much. So there is a lower level of parental input into the development of special education within the local boards.

There is a handbook for members of special education advisory committees which the provincial parents' association puts out that gives some guidance on the role and expectations of the SEACs. The auditor had found that not everybody was aware of this particular handbook. The ministry agreed with the auditor's recommendations that it should work with this provincial parents' association to revise the handbook and to distribute it to members of the SEACs and it undertook to take a lead role in communicating that information to the boards and to promote awareness of the handbook, which sets out those roles.

The deputy also thought that to improve the consistency and strengths and the quality of the SEACs, the ministry should also consider training SEAC members and also consider whether or not the committees' roles should be expanded, not just from establishing special education plans but also in evaluating their implementation.

This committee had some discussion about the role of SEACs and felt that the opportunity for input from them wasn't being realized as much as it could be and they want to make sure that the information the SEAC members have is consistent and that the role is strengthened. That would improve school board accountability. That led into a couple of recommendations, then: one, that the Ministry of Education and Training should ensure that all school boards and special education advisory committees are regularly informed of the role, expectations and best practices of SEACs. I don't know whether you would like to put in some kind of time period rather than "regularly." The next one is: The Ministry of Education and Training should require that each special education advisory committee be involved in the planning and monitoring of its school board's special education plans, programs and services.

Mr Marchese: I support the recommendations but point out a problem that is all too frequently the case in most school boards. One of the problems is that when you see words that are in both recommendations 4 and 5, and Ms Anderson made note of one -- the word "regularly" will be, of course, interpreted differently by every board. That's one problem already. There will be inconsistencies from one end of the region to the other, I can assure you. Then you have the word "informed," and I can assure you that every board will inform its SEACs differently, from the most minimum of standards by way of passing the information, posting it perhaps, or to less than that, which, in my view, is the minimum you should do. That's the problem in terms of those two particular words in recommendation 4.

Then in 5 it's "that the special education advisory committees be involved." I can assure you again that there will be so many inconsistencies across the province in this regard, because "involved" will be interpreted differently based on whether or not boards want to involve those committees in a genuine way. Active boards will actually sit down with SEACs and talk about planning and monitoring, but some other boards that don't want the same kind of activism will simply involve them by way of informing them.

I don't know how to get around these problems, in spite of my years of involvement. It is so very difficult unless you monitor that involvement or unless you have some kind of minimum standard. But how we get to the language, what kinds of guidelines we propose or stronger language for involvement is really the subject of some discussion. If Ms Anderson has suggestions to help us with that, it would be wonderful.

Ms Anderson: One possibility for the last one you were speaking to would be that each SEAC be an active participant. I know you still have some questions about how active "active" is, but it makes it slightly more positive than just "be involved," which is weaker than that.

On the issue of "regularly," one suggestion would be to substitute something along the lines of "annually" or "after each election" when the SEACs are in place, something of that nature, if you want to be more specific on that.

Ms Poole: I just wanted to support Mr Marchese's point. I had actually crossed out "involved" in number 5 and put "active participant." I guess Anne and I were on the same wavelength.

In number 4, I wonder if we could change it to say, "The Ministry of Education and Training should establish a policy providing that all school boards and SEACs are fully informed of the roles" -- and I would use "responsibilities" rather than "expectations" -- "responsibilities and best practices of SEACs." I'd certainly be quite amenable to putting in a phrase about "after every election to the board," or something like that, to clarify.

Ms Anderson: One of the issues that came up is the problem of SEAC members changing, which is why I thought you needed to have it done fairly regularly. If you got a significant turnover on the board, you're going to need to keep ensuring that the new members each time are fully aware of their role. I can certainly put in some comment about that.

Mr Marchese: I support the language changes: "Active participant" is better than "involved," and "regularly" to "annually" I think is good. Ms Poole, in relation to establishing a policy, that would be useful too. The only problem is that if you don't monitor it, whether or not you have a policy becomes almost irrelevant as well. Better to have a policy of some kind and guidelines than not to, but the ultimate problem is monitoring and making sure it's actually happening. You need a mechanism to be informed where that's a failure or where that's not occurring. I would support establishing a policy, but I still think we need --

Ms Poole: I'm sorry for interrupting, but could you add one line to number 4, just saying the ministry should be responsible for monitoring that this is occurring, or something to that effect? The only problem with adding something like that is it implies the boards will not adhere to ministry policy, which we all know is more or less true, depending on the board. But it does tend to be like Big Brother watching you and saying, "We've not only got a policy; we don't trust you to implement it." I think we just have to be a little cautious.

Mr Marchese: It's not trust. It's just accountability mechanisms.

The Chair: I take it that there's some form of consensus around that and that Ms Anderson, in her usual wise way, will draft a wording that's appropriate to capture all of that. Shall we move on from there?

Mr Marchese: I wouldn't put "fully informed."

Ms Poole: Why?

Mr Marchese: "Informed" is fine. If you establish a policy and you establish a monitoring and accountability mechanism, if they're informed, it's okay.


Mr Peters: One of the concerns is that we are, in these accountability matters, in our audit process becoming more and more results-oriented and outcomes-oriented. If we back off into just that they should have a policy, that's one thing the committee might want to consider: whether you just want to remain process-oriented or results-oriented in this recommendation.

Ms Poole: I just see having a policy as being a step towards getting the results. For everything else we do, the ministry has a policy on it, and the policy's purpose is to achieve the results and then we can become results-oriented. But right now there are no common standards, there is no requirement that boards do it; it's just kind of out there. I think there has to be some onus on the ministry to provide the leadership, and that's why I would like to see, as Mr Marchese was saying, that this be strengthened somehow to ensure that there is consistency.

Mr Peters: It's at the committee's discretion.

The Chair: I think it's a matter of that if we understand what we want as an outcome, how it's achieved is entirely left in the hands of the ministry, whether it does it by way of policy or otherwise. We're not trying to write the way in which the ministry should operate. We've avoided doing that in the past. With the Ministry of Housing, we avoided attempting to determine how it should go about coming up with its management system it would put in place. We allowed them to tell us how they would do that.

That brings me to another point. If we're concerned about results and outcomes at the end of the day -- and this is jumping a little ahead -- I wonder if we should not have the ministry respond to this draft report, just as we did with the Ministry of Housing; have them come before us and give us their views on our recommendations, tell us where they're at in this process. We had them here before, telling us where some of the problems lay, and a general agreement about some of the difficulties. But perhaps we could have them respond to this and then have them come back at a further date to tell us where they are in trying to implement some of these recommendations.

Ms Poole: I look at it quite differently than you do, Mr Chair. Just when we were on page 9 and were talking about the guidelines to be provided by the ministry, we are telling them they have to have guidelines. I fail to see what the difference is between that instance, where we're telling them, "You have to have guidelines," and this one, where we say, "You have to have a policy," which is the same type of idea.

If we see a void in the operations of the ministry, I think our job is to say -- I mean, the auditor can't do this, he can't get involved in ministry policies, but as a committee we certainly can and should. It's our job to remedy voids and to recommend that the ministry have guidelines or policies.

The Chair: It comes down to wording, because ultimately we are not here to comment on the actual policy statements that are put forth or objectives that are determined by way of political processes that are in place. If the government states that its policy is to do X, Y and Z, then it's our role to determine that the outcomes of that policy meet the objectives of that policy, and to do so in a cost-effective, value-for-money, accountable way. It's a catch-all phrase.

Ms Poole: If you look on page 14, we said, "The committee wishes to ensure that the information provided to SEACs is consistent and that the role of the SEACs is strengthened in order to enhance school board accountability." By saying that, we are making the direct assumption that that isn't happening right now, or else it need not be said.

The Chair: No, in that case, we're being --

Ms Poole: We're just furthering this with a recommendation as to how we can achieve that outcome.

The Chair: But by the same token, we've also taken out the words "regional offices" so that we do not suggest they should or should not exist. For us, the importance there is the outcome, and the mechanism used could be something other than regional offices, should that not be effective. We're leaving it open so that the ministry can determine what should be its policy around that.

Mr Marchese: I tend to agree with Ms Poole, that we as a committee can choose to recommend anything we want to the ministry. They can then decide to tell us whether or not it's useful to them or whether the minister wants to do something else as a government. But it's fully within our powers as a committee, after having heard the deputy and the suggestions made by the auditor, to decide what things we should be looking at. To get to the result, we have to look at the process, so the process and the outcome are very much interdependent and interlinked. You cannot simply look at an accounting mechanism that doesn't identify what the problems are along the way.

We as a committee are identifying certain weaknesses and suggesting certain policy directions to the ministry to then have a better accounting mechanism that will arrive at a better result. But I see ourselves as commenting in any way we feel we need to, to be helpful, not only by way of policy but by way of accountability accounting.

The Chair: I don't wish to further prolong this. I just wanted to make that point. Anyway, we can go on with this. Ms Poole.

Ms Poole: Just that the auditor has provided a suggestion which I think might resolve our wording problem: "The Ministry of Education and Training, as a matter of policy, should ensure that all boards" etc. It basically says this is part of the mandate of the Ministry of Education and Training.

The Chair: Just to simply say that administrative policy is different from policy that is arrived at in a political way. I think that distinguishing feature has to guide us whenever we make recommendations. That's really what I was trying to say. That's fine, that's good. Okay, moving on.

Ms Anderson: The next section outlines the process for assessment and placement of exceptional children. Because special education is mandated for exceptional children, their identification is a very critical aspect of serving all the children with special needs. As pointed out last week, the identification criteria are based on need rather than the particular physical characteristics of the child.

A significant part of this is the IPRC process. These identification placement and review committees are established by regulation. They have at least three members who are appointed by the board, one of whom is a supervisory officer or principal. A member or trustee of the board is not eligible to be appointed to the IPRC.

Under the regulation, the process to be followed is established. The student can be referred to an IPRC by the principal, either with written notification of the parent of the pupil or at the written request of the parent. The IPRC then will obtain an educational assessment of the student and, where necessary and with the written permission of the parent, the IPRC can also, if it needs to, obtain medical and psychological assessments.

The IPRC must interview the parent, unless the parent declines, and may also interview the student if the parent agrees.

Once it's made its determination, the IPRC must notify the parent and the principal in writing of its identification and of its recommendations for placement, which could include either a self-contained class, part-time self-contained class, withdrawal or a special school.


Following that, the parent has to give written consent that an exceptional pupil be placed in a special education program. If parents disagree, either with the identification decision or with the recommended placement, they can meet with the IPRC to discuss the statement. If they still disagree, they can appeal the IPRC determination to a special education appeal board within 15 days.

If that appeal board doesn't resolve the issue, the parent can then apply to the Ontario Special Education Tribunals for resolution. That tribunal's rulings are final. If the parent refuses to give written consent or declines to give written consent but doesn't initiate an appeal, then the board can direct the principal to place the exceptional child as recommended by the IPRC and to notify the parent of the action they've taken.

Once the pupil has been placed and the individual program is developed, usually by the classroom teacher, based on the needs that have been identified, the IPRC must review that placement at least once every 12 months to ensure that it meets the needs of the pupil, and the placement can't be changed again without the written consent of the parent.

There has been some criticism of the IPRC process over a number of years. Some parents find the process to be intimidating. Others find that there's insufficient consultation and communication with the parents and teachers. The Provincial Auditor was also informed by some boards that in some cases the number of referrals of students to the IPRC was limited by the number of spaces available for exceptional pupils.

The ministry is aware of these criticisms and has initiated an evaluation of the process by the Advisory Council on Special Education. Among the issues under review are parental involvement, the parent guide, the role of advocates, the pupil role and the decision-making process.

From the discussions during the hearings, I thought this committee was very concerned, particularly with two elements: One was the lack of accessibility for parents and the other was the inconsistency in the assessment. There were also other issues discussed around learning disabilities, the definitions of exceptionalities and the policy of integration within the classroom. Each of those issues is then discussed in more detail.

Under accessibility, although there are several points in the process that I've outlined in which parents either can be or must be included -- that's in the referral and the assessment, the notification of identification and acceptance of the placement -- members of the committee still felt that there were concerns that the process remained inaccessible to many parents.

Some parents may be unaware that they can initiate the identification of their child as exceptional.

Mr Marchese: Most parents.

Ms Anderson: Most parents. Others can be intimidated when they are in a room full of experts at the IPRC meeting. Still others may have difficulty either in communication or in lacking in confidence in going into those meetings.

The ministry points out that the regulation not only specifies the process but also requires each board to prepare a guide for the use and information of parents in order to address some of those issues. The parent guide includes information about the circumstances in which a pupil is referred to an IPRC; it outlines the procedures that the IPRC must follow; it explains the right to appeal and explains that written consent by the parent must be obtained.

They commented that with all the thousands of IPRC cases held in the first eight years after implementation of Bill 82, there have been less than two dozen tribunals and only four other civil actions. So they feel that in fact the process could be considered to be quite successful, though they do concede there may be some selection bias in the parents who actually bring cases forward.

The committee suggested that the use of parent advocates would improve accessibility and also that it would be helpful if school boards as a matter of course gave out information to the parents on the options available to them and suggested organizations that might be helpful to the parent.

The ministry agreed that the use of an advocate might be a way to improve accessibility. It's one of the issues that's being looked at by the Advisory Council on Special Education. The ministry said that it encourages boards to allow parents to bring an advocate, although it's the decision of the chair on whether or not an advocate can come to the meetings. However, the auditor's review found that while many of the boards visited did allow an advocate to attend, there were some that did not.

With respect to notifying parents of their options and support groups, most boards include in their parents' guide a list of the associations within their jurisdictions and some include information about placement options. In some cases, the SEACs are active in informing parents about their rights and encourage them to initiate the IPRC process. This of course will be dependent on the strength of the SEAC in that particular community.

The deputy suggested that this whole question of demystifying the education system and the broader question of parent participation would be something the new Ontario Parent Council would be looking at.

I felt the committee was concerned, despite the minister's comments, that the IPRC process was still inaccessible to parents and that many parents continue to feel cut off from decisions that affect their child. This was a concern that has been around for some time, and it's reflected in the recommendation of the select committee on education in 1990 concerning the IPRC process recommendation that included that "All parents should have equitable and adequate access to assistance and advocacy services."

Also of equal, if not greater, importance is the day-to-day communication between the parent and teacher to ensure continuity and consistency so that the parents are fully aware of the ongoing development of the educational plan for their child. I felt it was very important that these communications gaps be eliminated so that the parents, the teachers and the school boards could all work together to provide the education appropriate for each child's needs.

The recommendations for you to consider are:

"6. In order to improve communication between parents and the identification, placement and review committee, the ministry should ensure that: parents are given the right to an advocate during the IPRC process; the IPRC advise the parents before each meeting of this right; and each school board provide the parents with access to an interpreter where necessary."

"7. Each school board should advise parents annually of the existence of the parents' guide, and in particular point out the parents' right to refer their child to the IPRC through the principal. The parents' guide should include a description of the full range of options."

Maybe that would be an appropriate place to stop for comments.

The Chair: Since I suppose we're running out of time, that is a good place to stop.

Mr O'Connor: I think we've got a vote coming up.

The Chair: As soon as the bell rings we will adjourn, but there are a few minutes remaining, so last comments on this section.

Mr Marchese: I have a few things. First of all, on the top of page 18, it is a serious problem. The ministry says that there are only about 12 appeals, and because of that they said this can be considered to have been quite successful. I happened to be on one of those committees that particular day, just substituting in, but that paragraph doesn't reflect what some of us might have been saying.

I say that 99.9% of the Portuguese students end up in special education, and their parents have no clue about an appeal process. Then, generalizing it across Ontario, I suspect 90%, if not 95%, if not a bigger number than that, haven't a clue about the fact that they can appeal. So when they speak about the fact that there are only two appeals and this is really successful, they're quite wrong, to be truthful about the whole problem.

My sense is that we should be reflecting our concerns as a committee as opposed to reflecting what the ministry is saying. I know we say that some committee members have concerns about that. That's my first point.

On the second point, in the third paragraph, I wanted to identify the fact that, "The ministry said that it encourages boards to allow parent to bring an advocate." Here's an example where a ministry says, "We encourage it."

We don't have a clue what that means. The ministry may be encouraging it, but we don't know whether it's in writing, whether boards are actually doing it, who is doing it, and then the final ultimate problem is, it's left to the IPRC chair to decide whether there should be an advocate or not. Well, who in this province is doing that? We don't have a clue. Of course, it's uneven across the province.

To get to the recommendations, I support all of the recommendations that are there. The only problem is that unless we explain to parents in clear language, multilingual, but much more than just simply saying, "Here, we're giving you the paper, you have a right to an advocate," it's not going to work. We have to get it more than simply saying, "Give them the paper, tell them they can have an advocate," because most of them, even after they get the paper, won't understand what it means.


Mr Frankford: I wonder whether IPRCs provide any statistical breakdown of the cases that are heard and the disposition. It would seem to me that could be very useful if this was made available so people could get a sense of what is happening, of the breakdown of the exceptionalities we're dealing with and the recommendations that come out. I think this could also be very useful information in the implication that the amount of referral may be proportional to the resources available, which I trust is not what is intended and that the availability of special education is strictly in accordance to need.

Secondly, I'm wondering, in the term "advocacy," whether in a number of cases the best advocate would be the classroom teacher. I realize there may be other times in which this might be the contrary of what people wanted, but I would assume there are a fair number of classroom teachers who would be very effective for assessing the child and knowing about what should help.

I see my colleague shaking his head, and he certainly has more experience than I do in this, but I would think at least this might be something which would be usefully discussed with representatives of classroom teachers in the Advisory Council on Special Education. It probably is being done anyway, but I would just like to put that on the record.

Mr Crozier: Just a very quick question with regard to the boards that can refuse the admittance of an advocate. What if I were a parent and I insisted on one? Can the chair of the committee simply just say, "You can't"? Is there a legal question here or --

Mr Marchese: Remember, the ministry encourages that. If the parent empowers himself or herself to say, "I want to be there," it would be difficult then for the chair, who should know the rules, to deny that right to the person to do so. It's just that, for the most part, parents won't even ask.

Mr Crozier: In any event, we're recommending it, so I guess that's the main point.

Ms Poole: I guess the alliance between Mr Marchese and I continues, because I agree wholeheartedly with his comments and I think the top paragraph on page 18 --

Mr Anthony Perruzza (Downsview): Now's a good time to join our party then, Dianne.

Ms Poole: That's not the point. The point is that I think his points are quite valid, and you cannot look at the appeal process and the numbers that go into it as a valid indicator of whether the IPRC has in fact been accessible, whether the information has been provided, whether the advocacy has been encouraged and whether the parent is comfortable with the process. I'd like that paragraph strengthened rather than just taking so much of what the ministry says as an indicator.

On page 17 where it talks about the intimidation process, I've been through IPRC and I was intimidated, so I can imagine -- well, not very much, but I was a little intimidated -- if somebody had language problems or if they had difficulties articulating their concerns or if they weren't aware of their rights, how they would feel.

I don't like the words "the level of social sophistication." It just grates the wrong way. I wonder if we could say instead -- this is the seventh line down under "Accessibility" on page 17 -- "Others are intimidated when confronted by a room full of experts at the IPRC meeting, or may not possess the information, the level of comfort or the confidence needed in order to participate" rather than "social sophistication." I think that doesn't express what I'd like to see.

I am very pleased with the recommendations concerning advocacy and I think the fact that the ministry has to ensure it is extremely important because I'm not sure how far that encouragement goes or whether in fact the school boards are seeing the ministry as a strong advocate of the process.

Mr Marchese: Where are the words "social sophistication?"

Ms Poole: It's on page 17, top paragraph, the seventh line down.

Mr Marchese: Although we know what you mean.

Ms Poole: Yes, we know what you mean. I just don't think it's a very comfortable phrase to use. It seems somewhat élitist or something.

Mr Peters: A very small technical point: On page 15, the third paragraph, you talk about the placement options at the end. One of the placement options that is currently not mentioned is the full inclusion in a regular class. Because of the repeat of the word "inclusion," I would recommend, if the members agree, "Placement options are full inclusion in a regular class, a self-contained class," etc. Self-contained is where there are only children with special needs.

Mr Marchese: I'm sorry. Your wording again?

Mr Peters: Is to include that one of the options is "full inclusion in a regular class."

Ms Poole: By that you mean there wouldn't be any special treatment needed?

Mr Peters: That's right. That's full integration.

Mr Marchese: Full inclusion means you don't take him or her out of the classroom for any kind of --

Ms Poole: In other words, that the IPRC has found the child is not in need of special education assistance.

Mr Peters: That's right, yes.

Mr Peall: No, no, no. That is the placement option that may be best suited, and that's what the ministry is trying to encourage: more of that. It doesn't mean it wouldn't be support services within the classroom. One of the options would be to put them with all regular students and serve them that way, and that is a viable option an IPRC can choose.

Ms Poole: In fact, with the -- not gifted, what is the word? -- the enriched students, that is how they deal with it. They are in a regular class.

Mr Marchese: Are we agreed, we are adjourning?

The Chair: I think we will adjourn.

Ms Poole: Yes. Rosario and I agree we can adjourn.

The committee adjourned at 1208.