#BCED Cuts Are Not the Only Option: It Is Time for Trustees and Parents To Stand Together
This post by a local teacher is fabulous! I want to copy the whole thing, but instead, here are some highlights... I HIGHLY recommend you read the entire post here!
School boards across BC are releasing their proposed budgets this month, and overwhelmingly, school communities are grappling with shortfalls in the millions of dollars. Trustees are struggling with the prospect of gutting essential programs and services, and parents, students, and teachers are rallying to advocate for programs that have made a difference in their lives.
The cuts being proposed are drastic. In the words of one of my local trustees, “There is no more fat to cut, it is just bone now”. The Vancouver School board is considering eliminating their entire elementary band and strings program.
Over the coming month, parents, students, and teachers will write letters and attend local school board meetings to fight for the programs and services they care about. This is an important thing to do, and people need to make their voice heard to try to save what is important to them, however, we can’t stop at trying to save our program of choice for just one more year. We need to band together and go after the root of why our programs are at risk.
In all the conflict to come over what may be cut or what may be saved, there is one thing that trustees, teachers, and parents agree on with startling clarity; these proposed cuts are here because of the actions and policies of the provincial government.
The operating budget for #BCED has remained frozen for the third straight year as school districts grapple with price increases for basic costs such as hydro/power and MSP. Add the fact that inflation continues at 2% a year and you have significant and consistent cuts to school districts all over the province. As if that wasn’t enough, this year the provincial government has chosen to remove up to 50% of funding for future capital projects such as building repairs and seismic upgrades. What that actually means is that the province’s decision to cut the education budget in the province is literally putting the lives of students at risk by not funding earthquake repairs in an active earthquake zone. This is in addition to the lives put at risk through counseling and at risk youth programs cut through underfunding.
School boards have recognized the root of this problem for years. Last year the BC School Trustees Association voted unanimously to ask the provincial government to reopen the issue of school funding.
Many trustees are angry with the province for putting them in a position where they feel they are forced to be the instrument of gutting the essential and lifesaving services that students need so badly.
Boards feel bound to balanced budget legislation in the School Act, which states that any board that does not submit a balanced budget can be dismissed and replaced with a government appointed administrator.
The law itself is ludicrous; the fact that representatives elected by the people can be replaced with an unelected administrator goes against the very idea of our democracy.
Two years ago school board trustees in Cowichan recognized this and did what they felt was the moral thing to do. Instead of balancing their budget by doing things that would harm the students in their care, they submitted a needs budget to the provincial government, asking for what they needed to run their schools properly. Because Cowichan stood alone, the government was able to dismiss the board and hired an appointed administrator to slash the district’s budget.
School board trustees – you don’t need to be the instrument of harmful government cuts to what you care about so dearly. You can choose to be the leaders we need by joining together, submitting needs budgets to the province, and showing them with real action that they need to put money back to into public education. Now is the moment to do this. The cuts this year are so extreme that parents, students, and teachers are hungry for real solutions, and many of them want you to show the kind of moral courage that this action entails. If you banded together and the parents supported you, the government wouldn’t be able to dismiss you all, and you could make a real difference in the lives of the students in your care.
Parents, students and teachers – yes go to local school board meetings and fight for what you care about, but as you do, don’t just ask your school board to save your program for one more year. Ask your trustees to work together with their colleagues across the province to ensure that the programs and people you care about are here for years to come. They need to know that you support them in doing all that they can do to advocate for your kids and you need to advocate with them to by taking your message to the provincial government and demanding that they make students and schools a priority in this province again.
If we work together, we can change this for the better. It is time we started.