The Columbia Journal
P.O. Box 2633 MPO,
Vancouver, British Columbia,
Canada V6B 3W8
Liberal-Style Budget Threatens Education, Kids, Says
After months of community consultation, and sparring with the BC
Liberal government, the Vancouver School Board is finally caving to the
$11 million fiscal shortfall and downsizing services and jobs.
In the revised budget proposals tabled on March 31, the board took $2.4
million from its local capital reserve fund to alleviate negative
impacts of the over $40 million in funding cuts from the BC Liberal
government to the VSB since it took power in 2001.
The board has also cut back on several counseling programs and English
As A Second Language training courses, which is expected to cost about
100 jobs, including up to 40 teaching positions, by September.
School trustee Adrienne Montani says these sacrifices were made to help
save as much as possible the programs and services already hit by
provincial funding cuts.
“The board dedicated $1.4 million to fund learning resources and
restore more than 18 full time school-based teachers providing support
to Vancouver's most vulnerable students, and $1 million to support the
Inner City program which experienced a 35 per cent cut from the
Ministry for Children and Family Development,” she said. “BC Liberal
cuts still jeopardize Vancouver children's future, taking away extra
academic support, counseling services to students and families, the hot
lunch program, and other programs provided to inner city children.”
She adds that the board tried repeatedly to meet with both BC Liberal
Ministers of Education,
Christy Clark and now Tom Christensen to discuss alternatives to the
cuts, but were stonewalled.
Fellow trustee Noel Herron says the board will likely approve a budget
reflecting these cuts, but will do so under protest. “This is a very
grueling experience for us,” he said. “We went over these cuts over and
over again to try to minimize the damage. We worked with parents
teachers and support staff unions to figure out how to address this.”
The board held consultative sessions with education workers and the
larger community for several months before tabling a draft budget, he
said, adding it heard directly from more than 2,000 parents, teachers,
principals, support staff at meetings, and received approximately 100
written briefs, as well as hundreds of e-mails and phone calls.
Christensen insists that provincial education cuts are not as severe as
school boards across the province are claiming, and that overall
funding is actually increasing this year. But he says boards have to
plan their budgets within the funding parameters set down by the
provincial government. “If they can’t do that within their funding
limits, then they have to look at other ways of maintaining a balanced
budget,” he said.
Trustees said in the end they were forced to concede to the funding
cuts, since school board are required by law to adopt “compliance
budgets” that reflect the fiscal policies set down for them by the
provincial government. Failure of board to comply can result in the
province firing the elected trustees and appointing its own board.
This happened in Vancouver in 1984, when the then Social Credit
government fired the board for refusing to impose a series of austerity
measures dictated by the province.
However, the trustees have also adopted what they call an “alternative
budget,” which calls for rescinding the provincial cuts and expanding
public education services as part of an economic development plan.