The Columbia Journal
P.O. Box 2633 MPO,
Vancouver, British Columbia,
Canada V6B 3W8
School Hot Lunch Program Restored, but Details
CPP News Service
The BC Liberal government has caved to public pressure and restored
funding for the hot lunch program for impoverished inner city schools,
say school board trustees, although they admit details of the decision
are still sketchy.
The BC Ministry of Children and Family Development announced last week
it would give back the back $2.91million, cut from Community LINK
program last year, restoring the hot lunch program in schools. Lower
mainland school trustees and numerous parents, children’s advocacy and
labour and community groups greeted the news with celebration.
“Inner City school funding cuts were affecting our most vulnerable
students," says Adrienne Montani, chairperson of the Vancouver School
Board. “Over these past four months, Vancouver parents, students, and
education partners, voiced their deep concern over (provincial) Inner
City school funding cuts.
COPE Trustees hope this is a first step in restoring much needed
funding for education still hurting from severe cuts.”
The Community LINK program provides hot lunches for more than ten
thousand children daily, counseling, support for at-risk students,
community schools and alternative schooling programs. Montani said the
decision grants a slight reprieve to the austerity budget the board was
forced to bring in earlier this under the strict guidelines of the
That “compliance budget” for the 2004/2005 fiscal year necessitated a
cut of $11million to personnel and resources. This cut was in addition
to a $4 million cut the year before and accumulated cuts of $100
million over the previous ten years in the district, she said. 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.
It 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.
Montani says these sacrifices were made to help save as much as
possible the programs and services already hit by provincial funding
cuts. "We hope this is a first step in restoring needed funding for
education after more than a decade of under-funding," she said.
Although the decision is being hailed as a victory for school children
and the public interest, the details of how and exactly when the funds
will be re-introduced into the system is still unknown.
In coming days, Montani said, the Vancouver School Board will be
awaiting further clarification of this funding announcement. “At this
time, we do not have full details of what the funding will look like,"
she said. “However, when we receive detailed information, the district
will be giving thoughtful consideration to the use of these funds."
Despite the lack of details so far, many trustees view the government’s
reversal as a significant victory, given the wave of education service
cuts, mass layoffs and school closures across the province by the
Liberal regime. While assuring voters in the last provincial election
that such measures were not necessary, the government has maintained
this austerity program in spite of widespread opposition in almost
every community in the province.
The coalition that backed the trustees’ demand that the provincial
government restore funding to the hot lunch program is known as the No
Cuts to Kids Campaign. Its participants include a variety of public
interest organizations. These include Inner City Parents; Northeast
Vancouver Community Organizations (NEVCO); Inner City Education
Society; BC Association of Social Workers; Save Our Schools; Vancouver
Elementary Principals and Vice-Principals Association; Vancouver
Secondary Administrators Association; Vancouver School Board; Vancouver
Elementary School Teachers' Association; Vancouver Secondary Teachers'
Association; Canadian Union of Public Employees Local 15; International
Union of Operating Engineers Local 963.
Campaign organizers hope the recent success in restoring the program
will further motivate effort in other communities to reverse the
government’s education policies.