The provincial government recently announced that $25 million in administrative savings—including $97,792 to School District No. 74—would be redirected to school districts to help deal with “local cost pressures” and provide “front-line services for students”.
However, B.C. NDP leader John Horgan is quick to point out that the money does not represent new or additional funding for districts facing “devastating budget shortfalls”. Instead, he says, “The Christy Clark government just cancelled their plan to claw back $25 million from school boards across B.C. this year.”
Districts had been told to reduce administrative costs for the 2016/17 school year, but were recently informed that they will not have to pay their share of the $25 million in savings. SD 74 co-chair Carmen Ranta confirms that the money was “removed from budgets, then put back in. It looks like a golden egg, but isn’t.”
She adds that while extra money is always appreciated, “$25 million doesn’t really solve too many problems and difficulties that are very serious in some districts, especially for the districts facing the prospect of school closures.”
At the Board of Education meeting on June 7, trustees for SD 74 voted to use the $97,792 to support classroom libraries, which will “provide students with access to current, engaging, and culturally relevant resources in each classroom.” The district is working to ensure that each student has a strong literacy foundation, and says that “access to a wide range of resources is an important factor in supporting successful readers.”
A follow-up from the Ministry of Education has stated that “this level of funding [is] a permanent commitment for K–12 students; it is not only for the 2016/17 school year.” However, SD 74 co-chair Valerie Adrian says that “It would be difficult at this time to utilize [the funding] for any continuing purpose until we know exactly what is meant by an ongoing fund, or if we are faced with increased/downloaded costs.”
“We want to build a sustainable model in SD 74,” says Ranta. “The government is removing funding protection little by little. We can’t use this for foundation building.”