The School District No. 46 (SD46) board of education is joining other school boards across the province in detailing the effect of funding cuts over the last five years in an effort to put a provincial picture together that might sway government to abandon planned cuts in the future.
The BC School Trustees Association (BCSTA) is spearheading the effort in light of the recently announced administrative savings that boards must find over the next three years.
“The point of it being that we want to be able to demonstrate the hard work that boards have already undertaken over the last number of years, and to do that we need to gather our stories and our examples,” said BCSTA president Teresa Rezanoff.
“We’ll weave it together into a story about that and there are other elements: the story behind surplus dollars, our administrative levels and all the rest of it. So we’re looking to put that picture together and that picture will be shared publicly and with the Ministry [of Education].”
She’s hopeful the provincial snapshot will prove boards are doing their best with what they’ve got, but also highlight the fact they can’t take much more.
“We’re on that really sharp edge of trying to balance out everything that we need to do,” Rezanoff said. “It’s too late this year for the administrative cutbacks, for that $29 million in savings that we need to do this year, but our hope would be that by communicating clearly and neutrally on the things that have happened, that we will be able to open up the conversation for next year.”
The SD46 response to the BCSTA outlining the effects of local funding cuts over the last several years lists many programs and supports now absent or severely sliced in the district.
It highlights things such as the elimination of the FastForward literacy program, reductions in support teachers such as school librarians, slashed supply budgets, reduced availability of school electives, the inability to replace aging computer equipment, fewer maintenance staff, reduced transportation services and the closure of one elementary school in Sechelt.
In the future SD46 expects to have to make “significant reductions” to custodial staff, further reductions to learning resource budgets, further reductions to transportation, additional reductions to support staff and administrative cuts yet to be determined.
In a letter to the BCSTA, the SD46 board noted students must now “settle for what we’re able to provide based on budget rather than on what our students need,” and added that “our students perform well, but the strain of insufficient funds for planning and working together is not sustainable.”
The BCSTA hopes to have all of the responses from boards across the province in this week so it can start working on compiling the information, which should be ready for release by the end of the school year.