Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Show them some money!

“Deny, deny, deny. That’s all this minister does. This minister is the only one that thinks things are well,” -- North Coast MLA expressing frustration with the state of Education funding in B. C.
With Prince Rupert among a number of British Columbia schools suffering a huge budgetary shortfall this year, North Coast MLA Gary Coons to their case to the Legislature last week.

Coons explained the Prince Rupert situation in the legislature explaining how the pending 2 million dollar shortfall will affect local education in School District 52 and accusing the Liberal government of playing a “shell game” with monies destined for the education of the province’s youth.
Of particular interest to Education Minister Shirley Bond may be the news from her own backyard, where Prince George's School district 57 is anticipating a 4 million dollar shortfall this year, a huge number that may leave potential voters in next year's provincial election just a little concerned.

Coons educational thoughts were outlined in Monday’s Daily News.

Full school funding called for
By Kris Schumacher
The Daily News
Monday, May 26, 2008
Page Five

In an effort to find out how the ministry plans to address huge budgetary shortfalls in School District 52 and other districts in British Columbia, North Coast MLA Gary Coons informed Education Minister Shirley Bond of the crisis in the B.C. Legislature on Thursday.

Coons said that despite government claims about record funding for school districts, the reality across the province is that school districts are struggling to deal with huge budgetary shortfalls.

"Last week, the Prince Rupert school district sent an SOS to the whole community to act immediately for the sake of their children," said Coons. "A $2 million shortfall is affecting vital school programs and services, resulting in the loss of 18 teaching positions and up to 40 support staff positions that has put the whole community in a crisis mode. The B.C. Liberals are playing a shell game with our children's education funding.

"What is the minister going to do to ensure this school district is adequately funded so they can deliver needed programs to our children?"

School District 52 has calculated that with the Labour Settlement funds removed from consideration in the budget, their actual operating grant is only 95 per cent of last year’s grant. This, along with other under-funded costs, translates into the district having $2 million less to operate school than it had last year.

Minister Bond responded to Coons by noting that the government has been committed to education and will continue to add record amounts of funding to public education in B. C.

“Not only that, we are very proud of the record we had settling the public sector contracts across this province which was historic,” said Bond. “In fact, we have fully funded the agreements that were negotiated.”

Coons said the minister continues to deny there are problems with funding in B. C. school districts, while parents, teachers and school district staff disagree with the assessment.

“Deny, deny, deny. That’s all this minister does. This minister is the only one that thinks things are well,” said Coons. “School district’s themselves have difficulty figuring out the minister’s formula. This has to change. Districts were promised funding protection to ensure districts would have, year-to-year, 99 percent of the previous year’s funding in the operating grants. According to documents put out by the secretary-treasurer, Prince Rupert will on get 95 percent, a devastating cut of 4 percent- a $2 million cut due to this minister’s broken promises.”

Opposition members also pointed out to Bond that other school districts in the province are being forced to cut teachers and support staff next year. Quesnel school district is short $1 million and Kamloops school district is laying off 24 full-time teaching staff and considering possible school closures. Coons and other NDP MLA’s called on the Education Minister to commit to holding up the 2006/07 agreement, which guaranteed that school districts would get no less than 99 per cent of the previous year’s budget for operating expenses, and admit that it is due to funding formula changes that students across B. C. are getting less than they deserve.

“Will the Minister commit not only to Prince Rupert, but to all school districts to fund here negotiated labour settlements and ensure funding protection at the 99 per cent level?” asked Coons.

“This Prince Rupert school district is losing almost two million dollars in funding. That money has to come from somewhere; it will be squeezed from crowded classrooms and vulnerable children who will no longer receive the help they need to succeed.”

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