BURNABY-School boards are once again being thrown into chaos by government funding dictates, according to the Canadian Union of Public Employees, which represents close to 25,000 staff in B.C.’s public school system.
In a letter to school district secretary-treasurers, dated October 18, 2007, the Ministry of Education announced a change to the funding formula for the current year – 2007-08. The change, which could result in up to $50 million being held back from school districts across the province, comes after districts have approved preliminary budgets for the year.
Preliminary discussions in Burnaby indicate that the loss to that district could be $1.25 million and in New Westminster, early estimates predict a loss of over $800,000.
CUPE BC president Barry O’Neill says that the late change to the funding formula makes a mockery of the planning processes that districts go through. “Parents, students, staff and teachers all take the time to participate in budget consultation processes. Then the Ministry, with no notice, changes the rules after the fact. This just adds to public concerns about the funding of our K-12 system.”
The funding change would eliminate a guarantee of base funding for students who take less than eight courses (a full course load) in grades 10 through 12. Before this change, school districts were guaranteed half of the per student (or full-time equivalent –FTE) funding, and then received an additional .125 of an FTE for each course the student took, up to maximum funding of one (1) FTE.
“Government says that K-12 funding will remain at the same overall level despite this change. Well, parents can do the math. They already know the system is under funded. And really, this is about how each district is hit by an arbitrary decision that will see funding shuffled around and districts scrambling to manage.”
O’Neill also had strong words for government’s contention that existing surplus funds in districts are evidence that funding can be cut. “Districts surpluses are one of the only ways to deal with unpredictable and arbitrary provincial funding decisions. And speaking of surpluses, it seems to me that given the large provincial government surplus, we should be talking about better funding and services, not where to cut,” says O’Neill.
CUPE will be encouraging school districts to follow the lead of New Westminster, which agreed at its October 23 meeting to request government reconsider the funding change.
Contact: Barry O’Neill, CUPE BC president: 604-340-6768
Roseanne Moran, CUPE Communications: 778-835-7537