In a move that contradicts the Edmonton Public School Board practicf School-Based Management, the Board of Trustees at last night’s public board meeting, approved a budget that cuts 10% of funding from all schools in the district. Regardless of whether schools had increased enrollment, no decrease in enrollment or decreasing enrollment, all schools were ordered by the administration to cut 10% of staffing to make up for a deficit the board has incurred due to lack of provincial funding.
“This board has said schools make their own choices, which this budget proves is not the case,” said Doug Luellman, President of CUPE Local 474, which represents over 600 custodial workers in the district.” The administration ordered schools to cut staff and the schools have complied. At last night’s meeting, Trustees approved a centralized budget affecting all schools equally.”
Luellman says this runs counter to the district’s policy of school-based management and decision making. “Schools that have had no enrollment decreases, and those that have enrollment increases, have been ordered to cut staff.” Luellman says the only area where the 10% can come from is staffing.
“Instead of demanding this provincial government which is awash in money, properly fund public education, they insult their staff by claiming we are the reason for the district’s deficit.”
Luellman points out the Press Release issued by the school board which says: “Like many jurisdictions across the province, the district continues to face increasing costs for salaries, supplies, equipment and services”.
Luellman challenges the Board decision to order schools to cut 10%. “They have a $7 million dollar deficit, which they will carry over four years, yet this year they are demanding schools cut 10%. When in reality, the shortfall for this year is under $2 million by their own calculations.”
As for salaries and staffing costs, Luellman says those are fixed costs that the board could and should have anticipated.
“In fact it strikes us as strange that they are taking such drastic action to demand schools cut staff before they even know the enrollment numbers which will only be available this fall.”
Luellman believes the Trustees are using this shortfall to blackmail CUPE members since all three CUPE locals are currently in collective bargaining with the district.
“One of the issues on the table is that we need a custodial staffing formula for district schools to ensure they are kept clean and well maintained. The district does not want to give it to us. Yet they can turn around and order to schools to cut staff district wide.”
Luellman says this is the death of school-based management. “You can’t have it both ways, you can’t tell schools to do their best with their budgets and then punish them by telling them to cut staff whether they need to or not. That is central planning no matter what you call it.”
Luellman says that the Trustees should call an emergency meeting, and pass a deficit budget, passing the bill on to the Alberta Government.
“Lack of provincial funding, not staff salaries, created this deficit, pass the bill onto them. This is 2006 not 1995, “Luellman says. The last time the district cut staff in such an extreme fashion was during the debt and deficit crisis in 1995 under Ralph Klein. “Ralph said we had no money so we had no choice but to cut; now we are swimming in money and Ralph says no more money for public education.”
CUPE is Canada’s largest union with over half a million women and men who provide public services. In Alberta, CUPE’s 26,000 members work in health care, municipalities, schools, colleges, universities, libraries, emergency medical services, social services and casinos. Visit our CUPE websites for more information www.cupe.ca and www.cupealberta.ab.ca
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