The 2015 B.C. Liberal budget earmarks money to deal with last year’s agreement ending a long-fought labour dispute, but leaves school teachers and trustees condemning new cuts to education administration.
Cariboo-Chilcotin MLA Donna Barnett says the biggest concern is always in the effective delivery of services to the students.
Kindergarten to Grade 12 education will receive additional funding of $564 million over three years as government meets its funding commitments for negotiated collective agreements in the education sector, she notes.
This includes a 33 per cent increase to the Learning Improvement Fund to assist teachers educating students with special needs in the classroom, she explains.
However, the British Columbia Teachers Federation (BCTF) and the B.C. School Trustees Association (BCSTA) are both displeased by a $29-million budget cut to school administration and related services in the next school year, followed by a $25 million decrease in 2016/17.
BCTF president Jim Iker says the budget “plays a shell game” with education funding.
“Despite a personal promise from Premier [Christy] Clark to make class composition her number 1 priority and fully fund collective agreement costs, this new budget increases costs to districts at the same time it forces cuts.”
BCSTA president Teresa Rezansoff says “it is unacceptable” that forced administrative savings will not be retained within the K-12 education system, causing further cuts and significant shortfalls in school districts across the province.
“The money allocated in the 2015/16 provincial budget for public education simply will not cover our increasing costs, and now we are seeing millions of dollars taken away from school districts for other uses.”
Barnett says she does not yet know what impact, if any, these administrative cuts will have on classrooms in her constituency, or if that money will find its way back into public education.
“It’s hard to say what will happen in communities like ours, which is rural and remote, until we see the student numbers [next year] and the allocation of funding from the ministry.”
Once again, declining enrolment will guide how much money School District #27 and others around the province will receive, but they are guaranteed to get 98.5 per cent of the previous autumn’s funding, she notes.
“In 2014/15, SD27 got $3.1 million in funding protection and, apparently, this is the second largest [amount] in the province.”
School District #27 (SD27) chair Tanya Guenther and superintendent Mark Thiessen both say they do not yet have any clear information as to how the budget will impact schools in the Cariboo-Chilcotin, but will be watching for details as the budget unrolls.