The Chilliwack school district spends $1.42 for every dollar of special education funding it gets from the B.C. government.
Does that mean special ed in Chilliwack is swimming in extra resources?
Not according to special education consultant David Carter.
Speech-language services are stretched, psychology services are stretched, education assistants are stretched, resource teachers are stretched, principals are stretched and many parents are fed up.
"Demands appear to constantly rise along with expectations while resources appear insufficient and time never really stretches!" wrote Carter in a 36-page special education report commissioned by the district.
We're not alone, though, and Chilliwack is actually on the low end when it comes to spending more than it gets on special ed.
"This system, British Columbia, is tight," Carter told trustees at a meeting last Tuesday.
When it comes to the big picture, there are really only two things the school board and district can do, he said: keep advocating for adequate resources and make the most of the ones they have.
Trustee Doug McKay shrugged off the first suggestion.
Boards of education have a "vested interest" when it comes to the provincial government, he said, and the province isn't "typically very receptive to us going and asking them for extra money."
He's got a point.
Cowichan Valley, the last board that tried to squeeze extra money out of the province (by passing a deficit budget last spring), got fired.
But there's no way local trustees and district administrators can shrug off Carter's second point.
When it come to making the most of the resources the district has, the buck stops with them.
They might not be able to hire a personal speech-language pathologist for every kid who needs one or 10 education assistants for every classroom teacher, but they can find better ways to do things.
And the best way to make that happen is for everyone to put their heads together.
It's no surprise Carter's recommendations include suggestions for getting more stakeholder input.
Along with annual polls of special education parents, he suggests reinstating the district's student services advisory committee.
That's funny because local parent Don Davis recently made that exact same suggestion to the board and got no response.
With funds tight, it's time the Chilliwack school board started considering ideas from people like Davis carefully instead of waiting to hear them from well-paid consultants.
To cite a few more examples, just over a year ago, former School District No. 33 speech-language pathologist Jacqui Rowe, a professional with 44 years experience, wrote a letter to the board outlining what she thought were serious problems in the district's special education department.
Many of the problems she highlighted are reiterated (albeit more delicately) in Carter's recommendations, but last year the board sat on her letter for more than a month without even discussing it before she got fed up and talked to the press.
In the meantime, education assistant Kathi Friesen unleashed an outburst of emotional parent complaints after she stood up at a public meeting and told trustees the district needed to do a better job educating its students with autism.
Turns out Carter agrees more autism specialist support is needed here-one of Friesen's main points.
A year ago, though, a majority of trustees favoured huddling with student services staff in the face of criticism instead of forming the ad hoc committee with community representation parents were calling for.
If the school board and senior administrators are serious about making the most out of their overburdened special education resources, they're going to have to be a whole lot nimbler than they have been about turning public criticism and input into solutions.
It doesn't always have to take a year or a pile of costly consulting fees.