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Letters chastising ministers sent by SD46 board

Education funding

School District No. 46 trustees have now penned two strongly-worded letters to the provincial Minister of Education and the Minister of Finance chastising each for the administrative savings school boards have been tasked with finding for the upcoming school year.

“Our provincial education system is at very serious risk and it appears you are balancing the budget on the backs of the weakest: those children and families who need public education to improve their lives and become fully engaged, productive citizens,” the letter to Minister of Finance Michael de Jong states.

“We urge you to find savings at the executive level in Victoria and leave education funds in education where those dollars can help students.”

The letter from SD46 chair Betty Baxter to Minister of Education Peter Fassbender was equally damning.

“Minister, I must ask some personal questions of you, not only on behalf of trustees but on behalf of parents who are constantly fundraising so their children can have a field trip or a guest speaker at their school. I ask also on behalf of our teachers who bring their own materials to school because we can no longer supply them adequately and on behalf of principals who work unspeakably long hours ensuring schools are excellent on ever-shrinking budgets,” the letter reads.

It goes on to ask two questions of Fassbender, “How can you talk of support of education in British Columbia and refuse to treat the school districts with respect?” and “Why did you sign that memorandum of understanding if you can’t or won’t abide by it?”

The MOU referred to is between the BC School Trustees Association and Fassbender; it states that the Minister will communicate and collaborate with school districts.

“Twice since then, with cuts to adult education program funds and with February’s budget requirements, you have delivered blows to the operations of B.C.’s school districts without any discussion or notice. Your approach clearly demonstrates a lack of respect,” the letter states.

The letters were sent on March 23 and have not yet been responded to by either Minister.

Although trustees don’t expect things will change as a result of the correspondence, they felt compelled to speak up about their concerns.

Trustee Christine Younghusband noted at the March 10 school board meeting that staying silent wasn’t an option, because “by staying silent we’re saying we’re OK with it, and I’m not OK with it. I think that we need to have our voice heard.”

School boards across B.C. were told in February they must find a total of $54 million in administrative savings over the next two years as a result of funding cuts in the provincial budget.