BURNABY— The B.C. government claim that the Vancouver school district has no real financial problems, not only demonstrates a lack of respect for the parents, students and elected trustees – but also a lack of understanding of the education system.
Commenting on the Comptroller General’s review of Vancouver School Board operations, CUPE BC president Barry O’Neill says that excluding the education funding model from the review makes it particularly hard to understand how government can conclude that there is ample funding.
“From the outset – when the Board of Education had to learn about this review in the media – the process has looked like pure politics. And while we are not surprised, we are very concerned that the B.C. government has used the Comptroller General’s office to put a chill on its critics,” says O’Neill.
O’Neill says that at first glance some of the recommendations show a failure to comprehend the role that schools and public education play and the important links that schools have with their communities.
The report suggests that the Board export its budget problems to non-profit groups by increasing fees charged to child care programs using space in schools by $1.8 million. O’Neill says this would place a crippling burden on the backs of non-profit groups, working parents and families who rely on community-based child care.
O’Neill also says that the report’s critique of the Board philosophy that ‘public education should be needs-based as opposed to operating within a defined budget’ is wrong-headed. “Parents elect boards to be concerned about the educational needs of students, not simply to find ways to operate within increasingly inadequate budgets,” says O’Neill.
The report suggests that the Board could save up to $5.7 million per year by shedding surplus school space through closing and consolidating schools. O’Neill notes that boards are obliged to hang on to surplus space in light of the intended expansion of early childhood education. “Where exactly are the cost savings going to come from with this recommendation?” asks O’Neill.
Boards of Education throughout the province are struggling with budget shortfalls – which the BC Association of School Business Officials recently estimated to be over $300 million. CUPE BC has called for an emergency summit on education funding to address the situation facing VSB and districts throughout the province.