Candidates for the May 14 provincial election in Parksville Qualicum Beach say the $1.1 million budget shortfall facing the local school district points to larger challenges in both the funding of education and the global economy.
B.C. Liberal party candidate Michelle Stilwell, reached by e-mail from Australia, said District 69’s challenges “run deeper than just education.”
“There is global economic uncertainty and notwithstanding B.C. has done quite well in its economic performance during this time, there is still a concern,” Stilwell wrote. “This is why it’s so important for us to have a strong economy. A strong economy leads to more government ability to invest in things like education.”
NDP candidate Barry Avis said the formula for school funding is not working.
“The funding model that’s in place right now is not proper and that needs to be addressed,” said Avis.
The former Qualicum beach town councillor also said the “last thing” he would like to see is any schools closing, but “everything else is up for review,” including layoffs.
“Good management means you review all options,” said Avis. “They (the District 69 board of trustees) have a real task on their hands. It’s their responsibility to look at everything.”
Stilwell also said the issue of education funding “requires new, innovative and collaborative approaches while taking into account the things that have worked or failed in the past.”
B.C. Conservative Party candidate David Coupland said the other school district in this constituency has faced similar budgetary challenges in the last few years. Coupland’s son was in high school in District 68 last year.
“Millions and millions of dollars (in the budget) and they had to share math books,” said Coupland. “It’s kinda bizarre.”
Coupland said increases negotiated through bargaining agreements put pressure on local school districts.
“They (the provincial government) negotiate something and then they don’t follow it up with the funding,” he said.