School District 69 (Qualicum) has recieved more funding from the Ministry of Education to pay for staff increases required by restored union language around class sizes and composition. But the funding is less than half of what was requested. — File photo

More funding for SD 69, but not enough

Ministry pledges $400,000 more, but district needs nearly $1M

School District 69 (Qualicum) has managed to get extra funding from the Ministry of Education after being short-changed earlier this year.

That’s the good news.

The bad news is it received less than half of what was asked for — $400,000 of the $956,000 requested.

Asked why the ministry settled on providing an additional $400,000, SD69 secretary-treasurer Ron Amos said the ministry did not articulate the basis for that amount in its letter to the district late last week.

Still, Amos and school board chair Eve Flynn said the development was encouraging, and that SD69 would get another chance to justify its needs to the ministry in the fall in the hopes of receiving more funding.

“This is halfway there,” said Flynn. “It’s positive.”

The lack of funding is a result of the Supreme Court’s decision last year requiring the B.C. government restore teachers’ union language around classroom sizes and composition.

The Ministry of Education then doled out funds to pay for the extra teachers and staff required to fulfill that language, which would generally mean more teachers and fewer students per classroom.

The ministry gave SD69 $1.769 million earlier this year to pay for the increase in staffing for the next school year (the funding is notional, because firm enrolment numbers aren’t known, and that’s largely how staffing requirements are based).

By the school district’s math, it meant SD69 would be 9.1 non-enrolling teacher positions short.

The district sent a request to the ministry asking for an additional $965,000 to fund those positions.

With the $400,000 more the ministry has now given, the district is still short about $550,000, but plans to use $200,000 in surplus funds to get that down to $350,000.

But the ministry made it clear that SD69 will get another opportunity to address its shortfall come October, when student enrolment numbers are known, said Amos.

“If there is a gap that exists, we’ll have another opportunity to make a concrete proposal,” said Rollie Koop, superintendent for SD69.

In the meantime, Amos said, the lack of funding will not mean any job losses. “Rather, we are having to hold back on our decisions to be able to hire more for our projected needs.”