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Teacher Newsmagazine Volume 20, Number 3, November/December 2007

Ministry backs away from secondary spending cuts

The Ministry of Education appears to be partially backing away from its mid-year claw back of funds from school districts. Its October 18, 2007 announcement of cuts to secondary schools had created the potential for significant disruption of school classes and programs in most districts.

In an attempt to deal with the controversy created by blindsiding Boards of Education budget plans, the ministry has now released six pages of revised rules for school districts to use in recalculating funding for the current school year. The new policies are announced in the document: "Frequently Asked Questions: Funding Formula Adjustments."

"It is clear that a revision of the revision of the funding formula is under way," said BCTF president Irene Lanzinger. "These changes continue to send shock waves in school communities. The process of reporting to the ministry has just become even more complex and time-consuming for school districts and once again school districts are unevenly punished by the changes."

The ministry is short $50 million in a $4.3 billion budget. "Where does it look for savings? Not to the ministry itself, or its increasing bureaucracy, or to pet projects like the BC Educational Leadership Council. Instead, they attempted to take it directly from classrooms and from our most vulnerable students..." said Lanzinger.

Clawing back funds that support students makes no sense when there is a healthy provincial surplus of $4 billion. The question arises why huge cost overruns have been tolerated for the downtown convention centre but not when it comes to our children’s learning.

At a meeting with Education Minister Shirley Bond, the BCTF executive members raised the concerns expressed by the BCTF Representative Assembly about the recent changes to the funding formula. The minister provided a copy of Frequently Asked Questions regarding the funding changes and also agreed that once the latest data on class size and composition was available they should hold another bilateral meeting specifically on this topic, in addition to any discussion at the roundtable.

– Murray Dobbin

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