VICTORIA- Just as B.C.’s school enrolment is set to grow over the next three years, the B.C. Liberals’ flat-lined education budget is forcing school districts to consider the elimination of at least 350 teaching and support staff jobs, as well as programs for students beginning next September.
“All districts, including growing districts like Surrey, Delta and the Central Okanagan, are contemplating more education job cuts because they face provincial funding shortfalls. Parent groups and trustees are telling the B.C. Liberals their budget will negatively impact the learning experience of our kids,” said Rob Fleming, New Democrat education critic.
Despite two Supreme Court rulings overturning B.C. Liberal laws on class size and composition, as well as expired contracts with the province’s teachers and support staff, a provincial education budget increase of only 0.4 per cent is causing districts to make budget cuts in excess of $56 million.
“Last year the Minister of Education ordered school districts to fund provincially negotiated contract costs for 22,000 support staff entirely through ‘internal savings,’ and with great difficulty they did,” said Fleming. “But in this provincial budget cycle they are drawing from the same well again and ordering school trustees to fund MSP increases, BC Hydro increases, pension adjustments, even provincial seismic school upgrades from a reduced budget – and that’s before any new settlements with teachers and assistants.”
In the Coquitlam School District a $13.4 million budget shortfall is forcing the elimination of 163 full-time jobs. The Sooke School District, despite being one of the fastest growing districts in the province, is being forced to cut $2.7 million. The Vancouver School Board has to tackle a $12.34 million shortfall that will grow to $26.6 million the following year. They are contemplating the elimination of 70 full-time positions, including cutting elementary school band and the district’s athletic coordinator.
Fleming noted that some districts are also considering a week long break in November – placing more costs onto the backs of families who will have to find and pay for day programs or take time off work.
“The bottom line is that B.C. Liberal cuts will eliminate teaching positions across B.C. and reduce programs that provide accelerated learning, English language support, classes in music and trades, and support for students with special needs.”