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April 9, 2010

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Provincial underfunding to blame for VSB budget woes

VANCOUVER—Education minister Margaret MacDiarmid was not on hand to hear the community struggle with an $18 million funding shortfall in the Vancouver school district.

“It is truly shameful that this minister refuses to come face-to-face with the trustees, parents, staff and students who are being hurt by underfunding,” said CUPE 15 president Paul Faoro. Trustees on the Vancouver Board of Education had invited the minister to attend. Faoro said that given that her constituency office is three blocks from where the VSB meeting was held, Minister MacDiarmid should have been there.

On March 15, BC school districts received notice of their preliminary budget allocations for the coming school year, and got a clear signal that the financial picture is not good. In stark contrast to the BC government’s spin of the ‘highest funding ever’ – districts throughout the province instead will see continued chronic underfunding.

“Provincial underfunding over the past eight years has brought most districts to the point of massive structural funding shortfalls. Vancouver is the most recent example of what we know is going to be a tsunami of program and service cuts in BC’s 60 districts,” said Barry O’Neill, president of CUPE BC.

CUPE research indicates that the magnitude of the mounting structural funding shortfall will surpass $300 million this year, and will increasingly curtail options available to boards attempting to bring their budgets into balance.

Trustees on the Vancouver Board of Education are reviewing options that include reducing instructional days from 185 to 175 next year and adding extra minutes to each day; cutting teachers and support staff positions, and administrative time for vice-principals; and delaying necessary facility improvements.

Faoro and O’Neill said that it is time for the Campbell government to face the music, admit that it needs to provide higher levels of funding to districts and address the faulty funding formula.

CUPE has released a background analysis of the BC education funding situation, and will be releasing further research on the magnitude of BC government underfunding in the days to come.

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