SURREYA report by recognized school budgeting analyst John Malcolmson and commissioned by the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE local 728, Surrey Schools) has branded the analysis, upon which the Surrey School Board based its decision to cut support staff and teachers, an inconsistent reporting of facts from two different sources. Malcolmsons report further suggests that discrepancies in the districts reporting of information suggested directions that would favour decisions by the board to minimize cuts to highly paid administrative staff while sacrificing lower-paid, front-line employees whose work focuses on the health, well being and security within the school system.
Malcolmson suggests, after scrutinizing available documents, that budget data, when compared with salary expenditure forecasts for the coming year, are difficult to square.
The purported reduction in administrative staff of 5 people results in a net decrease of 5.8 percent of the senior staff complement, while the 140 support positions represent a considerably larger 8.3 percent. To add to the inequity, district administrative staff salaries have increased on an average 14.1% over the last two years. As well, since the budget was adopted by the Board, two new Administration Officer positions have been added.
Malcolmson points to provincial revenues which, though described by both the school board and the provincial government as being $5.5 million for the coming fiscal years really only amounts to $1.3 million increase1/3 of a percent compared to the current fiscal year.
I dont understand why the Surrey School Board has not been making a public fuss about the provincial governments funding structure and, in the final analysis, inadequate funding that is causing a growing school district like Surrey to cut the most basic services. said Zander president of CUPE Local 728, the union representing the bargaining unit with the largest number of lay offs in the district.
In response to Malcolmsons report Zander is calling on the board to explain its figures and its decisions to both the union and to Surrey parents of students who will be gravely affected by cuts to special education assistants, custodians, clerical support and maintenance.
Zander wants parents to think about what it is that custodians do in schools. How aware are parents of Surrey students, of the unbelievable load that has been added onto the already huge workload of custodial staff. What thinking parent is not going to wonder at how safe their children are in a public school system that would cut 57 custodians during a period when there are so many public concerns about the spread of contagious diseases. Clearly, were seeing American television shows become Canadian realities.
Special Education also comes under scrutiny in the Malcolmson report. And while the report speaks about figures that dont add up they cant possibly describe the situation of a student who, until now, received the additional support required of the formerly identified high incidence category. Now, says Zander, high incidence has been taken out of the special needs category. So, if your child is dyslexic, learning-disabled or gifted they wont qualify for support.
According to Zander, the board outlined in their 2003/2004 budget Guiding Principles for Decision Making that the Learner Support Team would continue to be supported. In fact, the Board is cutting all SEA support for the Learning Support Teams.
Zander wants the public to understand that the effects of District 36s budget exercise will mean medium and long term disaster for school maintenance and in the very near future the safety of students in Surrey will be in greater jeopardy as tens of clerical staff are no longer employed in the school system. It doesnt look like our public education system is going to have a chance to get stronger as long as school boards continue to pander to a provincial government whose interest does not reflect the needs of ordinary families.
Susan Zander, president, CUPE 728, 604-567-2873
Copies of the full report are available by calling Susan Zander