Boost coming for education in B.C.: minister
Schools in B.C. will get an extra $28 million next year, Minister of Education Mike Bernier told The Vancouver Sun Monday.
The announcement was made in response to an outcry from school trustees that the funding announced in March would not cover the costs of the teachers’ contract agreement or growing enrolment.
In Vancouver, when the funding was announced in March, the district’s shortfall jumped from $24 million to $27 million. Presumably, the money announced Monday will put that shortfall back at $24 million.
“This will be very welcome news for not only the districts where enrolment is growing, but also the ones with declining enrolment, because it’s still increasing the per-pupil rate,” Bernier said. “What drives this is the commitment that I’ve made and that government has made that we would fully fund all new students and that we would be fully funding the teachers’ collective agreement.”
Under the March announcement, the per-student funding was only slated to increase by $8 over this year, not enough to maintain programs and services, according to a letter from school trustees association president Teresa Rezansoff to the education minister. Rezansoff estimated that education funding was short by $30 million, provincewide.
The $28 million will increase per-student funding by an additional $52 for next year and will cover costs associated with the teachers’ contract and new students, Bernier said.
Rezansoff said boards are already struggling to accommodate the government’s required administrative savings of $25 million for this year, plus raises for management staff and technology costs.
“Predictable and sustainable funding remains a core expectation of all boards of education,” Rezansoff wrote. “It is the position of BCSTA that government as a whole must immediately meet its previously announced commitments by increasing the basic ‘per pupil’ allocation by an amount that fully addresses the current funding shortfall.”
Bernier said there will also be a change in funding procedure, so that no funds are held back to wait for student counts. Instead, the ministry is accounting for an increase of 1,400 students in the province next year and it will provide the funds for that increase up front, Bernier said.
This school year was the first time enrolment has grown since 1997, Bernier said. He said if more than 1,400 students arrive at B.C. schools in September, they will be fully funded.
Bernier said the government would notify secretary-treasurers of the change on Monday night. By law, all school boards must balance their budgets by June 30.
Sun education reporter