VERNON— Two letters written by Vernon education stakeholders expose the deception of the B.C. Liberal government and their failure to protect education, say New Democrats.
“The B.C. Liberal Minister of Education has claimed that every district was warned about the cancellation of the annual facilities grant,” said New Democrat MLA Adrian Dix . “But parents, teachers, support staff and trustees in Vernon and other communities say that’s just not true.”
Districts usually receive a yearly facilities grant that they then use to make repairs and upgrade schools. This year, the B.C. Liberal government pulled facilities grant funding just before the beginning of classes, even though many districts had already spent some of the funding on essential summer maintenance.
“The cancellation of facilities funds is part of a perfect storm that is slamming education in this province,” said Dix. “Cuts to facilities grants and PAC funding as well as higher costs due to increasing medical premiums, the H1N1 outbreak, and the heavier tax burden that will be imposed on schools by the HST are combining to undermine education in both the short term and the long term.”
On Oct. 6, School District 22 wrote a letter to the minister stating that funding cuts had been “made with no advance warning or consultation and with no regard for the consequences or impact that they could have on respective school districts.”
On Oct. 13, the district, parents, teachers and support staff wrote a joint letter to the B.C. Liberal government which observed that being “informed the week prior to schools opening that the funding is cancelled is totally irresponsible and shows a total lack of respect from the provincial government.”
New Democrat education critic Robin Austin read from the joint letter during question period on Thursday, confronting the minister with the impacts that cuts will have on Vernon kids.
“The cuts and the funding freeze could result in large class sizes and less support for children with special needs,” said Austin. “My question to the Education Minister is this: does the government believe that delivering a budget which results in larger class sizes and less support for children with special needs fits the definition of protecting education?”
Dix noted that the letter from School District 22 also dismantles the B.C. Liberal education minister's false excuse for slashing facilities grants.
The letter says that “the extent of the cuts seemed, in part, to be based on the premise that all districts had maintained a 'substantial' surplus from preceding Annual Facility Grants when, in reality, these surpluses existed in only a handful of school districts in the province and in most cases the funds carried over had already been earmarked for specific projects.”
Most school districts do major repairs and upgrades during the summer months, when students are on summer vacation. Doing them during the school year incurs extra costs for expenses like portable classrooms. So while districts had money in their accounts to pay their bills, for many districts there was no surplus, says Austin.
“When someone saves a paycheck to pay their rent they don't have a surplus, they have enough to cover their bills. School districts had enough in the bank to pay their bills, but now many have nothing left for next month, let alone next year,” said Austin.
Carole James and the New Democrats have been holding the B.C. Liberals accountable for breaking their word on the HST, and for backtracking on their election promises to protect health care, education, and other vital services