Chilliwack school board votes to educate MLAs
The Chilliwack board of education is taking an offensive stance to battle the increased provincial budget pressures of 1.3 million over two years.
In a motion that was passed at Tuesday night’s meeting, it was decided that the board will come up with a “rationale for an immediate increase in funding for support for educational programs.”
The board will then ask before the end of this month to meet with local MLAs John Martin and Laurie Throness and present its requests for more funding to the MLAs and the Ministry of Education.
“I think we need to educate our MLAs; we need the government to see exactly what they’re asking from us and exactly what we won’t be able to do because of it,” said board vice-chair Dan Coulter in support of the motion.
Trustee Heather Maahs urged caution in demanding money from the province.
“The Vancouver school board for six years basically declared war on the Ministry of Education and it did not gain them one single extra cent,” she said. “They are in fact being audited by the government right now.”
She points to a strategy of building surplus funds instead, and using resources to find ways to meet this year’s budget demands.
But board chair Silvia Dyck urges not only the board to collectively push the government, but the communities as well.
“This Ministry and this government are attacking public education,” she said, making no apologies for spending money on the children of a newer, more complex society.
And Coulter said school districts like Abbotsford who hold large surpluses are doing a disservice to the province by giving the government examples to point to.
“We are given an operating budget every year and that money is to be spent on education in the classroom,” he said. “We should not be socking away money.”
The motion was passed 5-2 with Maahs and Martha Wiens voting against.
The decision comes after the Ministry’s mandate that was recently discussed at a public presentation of the budget committee March 5 at Chilliwack secondary school.
And last Friday the Ministry of Education announced its funding details for the districts.
“No surprises, no good news, no more bad news,” said school district secretary treasurer Gerry Slykhuis. “We’ve got the same problem as before it was announced.”
According to the Ministry document, of the B.C.-wide ministry order for districts to trim $29 million this coming year, Chilliwack will need to find just over $680,000 in "administration efficiencies." This is slightly down from the $705,000 previously estimated by the budget committee.
Out of the provincial expectations of $25 million in cuts the following year, Chilliwack’s share will be $608,000 according to the committee’s estimate at this point.
This new ministry order comes on top of an already-stretched budget, which saw the district with a decline in revenues and an increase in cost pressures.
Including the new cuts, a decrease in revenues of almost $2.1 million and an increase in expenses of over $1.3 million adds up to budget pressures of nearly $3.4 million dollars for this year’s financial plan (2015/16).
On April 16, the budget committee will meet to review input from partners and stakeholders before the first reading of the budget at the May 19 board of education meeting. The approved budget is due to the Ministry of Education on June 30.