Wednesday, June 22, 2011

School Funding Forum - June 27

While BC politics has been focused around the HST Referendum, Saanich schools have been facing an ongoing funding crisis that is about to come to a head.

Saanich School board, like all school boards across the province, has been facing a decade of immense pressure from continued funding cuts with no revenue increases. In April 2010 the School Board was facing a $3-4 million dollar shortfall, with layoffs of up to 23 staff. This translates to less support for students: less field trips, less library staff, less support for special needs students.

This year, facing further cutbacks and the loss of even more resources for students, the School Board stood up to the Ministry of Education and tabled a deficit budget for the 2011-12 year that calls for the restoration of programs and services that have been reduced in previous years and avoids any additional cuts this year. By law, School Boards across the province are required to submit balanced budgets to the Ministry of Education by June 30.

With a child in the Saanich School District, I am not only concerned as an MLA, I am concerned as a parent. I’ve spoken out about this many times. It was an issue I raised during the 2009 election and, since that time, I have continued to question the government over ongoing budget pressures that they have imposed on our schools and our kids.

I have watched the Saanich School Board struggle each year with dwindling resources. They are trying to make the best choices for our children but are being forced to make cuts that will compromise the education of our children. By submitting a deficit budget, the board is likely to be removed by the Ministry of Education and replaced with one appointed by the province.

Saanich is one of many school districts facing declining enrollment. The current funding model is calculated on a per-student basis: less students in your school, less funding. However, when a class has one less student in it, costs do not drop proportionality to the amount of funding lost from losing that student. If a class goes from 25 to 24 students, most costs stay the same: teacher salaries, janitorial services, utilities, but the loss of per-student funding means cuts to services and resources have to be found somewhere.

I encourage all students, staff and parents come to my offce Monday June 27, from 3pm til 5pm, for a BBQ forum to hear your concerns and what ideas you have to address these ongoing funding shortfalls.