SD8 school board chair Lenora Trenaman is thrilled the Ministry of Education is funnelling an additional $252,000 their direction, but figures they’re still more than $2.5 million away from adequate funding.
“Any more money is great news to every district,” Trenaman told the Star. “But this year we had well over $4 million in requests for funding and when we were finished the budgeting process there was still an unmet $2.7 million.”
She said that means this new cash, which will probably be allocated later in the summer, is essentially a drop in the bucket — a view shared by Nelson-Creston MLA Michelle Mungall.
“School districts have been underfunded and seen cuts for years, leading to the current province-wide realities of school closures, overcrowded classrooms and school maintenance deferrals,” Mungall said in a commentary that appears in full on page 6.
“This year, Vancouver school board alone considered cutting $24 million from its programs, services and staff while Osoyoos’s only high school is being closed.”
Education Minister Mike Bernier has announced districts can spend the money however they see fit — hiring teachers, starting new programs or maintaining school infrastructure — but Trenaman noted that because it’s a one-time payment it’s not “sustainable.”
“It’s not money we’ll receive year after year. It’s going to help and we’re glad for it, but it won’t make much of a difference.”
That being said, the district is pleased they’re given a choice on how exactly to spend the cash. SD8’s $252,383 is part of $25 million in administrative savings by districts across the province that the government is redirecting into “frontline services for students.”
“The BC School Trustees Association is pleased the Ministry of Education and government have been responsive to our ongoing advocacy,” said president Teresa Rezansoff.
“We thank them for engaging in open dialogue with us regarding the funding concerns of school districts. Local autonomy to allocate the money based on local priorities is important.”
But Trenaman doesn’t believe it will have any bearing on their continuing draft facilities plan, which has them considering the closure of six local schools due to declining enrolment and piling deferred maintenance costs.
“Honestly, we just wish we had enough funding for all the needs of our learners to be met,” she said. “In regards to the facilities plan, I don’t anticipate it will have an impact.”