The chair of the Vancouver Island School Trustees Association — Nanoose Bay’s Eve Flynn — has attacked the provincial government over its request for school boards to find $54 million in “administrative savings,” calling it “both devastating and detrimental” to the education system.
“Your government’s indiscriminate expectations will ensure the erosion of the B.C. Education Plan,” Flynn wrote, adding that the association was also disappointed in Premier Christy Clark “characterizing our valued employees as ‘low hanging fruit’. ”
In its February budget, the provincial government asked school districts to come up with a total in B.C. of $29 million in savings this year and $25 million next year. In her letter as VISTA chair, Flynn, also the chair of the board of trustees for School District 69 (Qualicum) suggested students will be negatively affected by boards finding these savings.
“The professional growth of our teachers, guided by our district’s educational leaders, will be disrupted and will have a direct impact on our student achievement,” wrote Flynn.
Education Minister Peter Fassbender has a different take on the cuts. In a widely-distributed op-ed after the “administrative savings” request was revealed in last month’s budget, Fassbender wrote: “We’re targeting more money for student instruction because we know parents want more teachers and classroom supports, not more administration. They want more of their tax dollars to deepen student learning, not duplicate payroll functions.”
In her letter, sent to The NEWS this week by e-mail from the Parksville offices of the local school district, Flynn said school boards have worked hard in recent years to maintain service to students while facing cuts in funding.
“Boards of Education have assessed expenditures and exercised due diligence to eliminate costs in all areas while doing their best to maintain classroom learning environments,” Flynn wrote. “To believe that the past and future reductions in expenditures do not impact classrooms is unrealistic.”
In his op-ed, Fassbender suggested there have not been cuts to education funding.
“Total education funding will top $5 billion next year — that’s $1.2 billion more than in 2001,” he wrote. “This is a substantial increase at a time when student enrolment declined by about 75,000 students over that same period. We have to do this (administrative savings) because, while we’re putting more into the system, in spite of declining student enrolment, school districts are spending more money on administration than ever before.”
“At the end of the day, government is looking for school districts to save 0.5 per cent of total spending this coming year, rising to one per cent in the year after,” the education minister continued. “This is reasonable, it’s achievable and, to keep education funding sustainable and targeted to classrooms, it’s the right thing to do.”