The restoration budget which passed in a 5-4 vote by the Cowichan School Board last month has been garnering support from many sectors in the province and on June 20, a rally at the school board office in Duncan will see some reenforcement from teachers and school trustees in School District 69 (Qualicum).
Board chair Lynette Kershaw said she will be attending the 6:30 p.m. rally and while she will not be going as a representative for the board, she feels strongly about the issue so she will show her support as an individual who supports education.
“It’s entirely an individual thing. It took a lot of courage for the Cowichan board to recognize what budget cuts have done throughout the years. They are recognizing the importance of education, and that is the most democratic way of producing a budget,” she expressed.
Kershaw said the government needs to come up with a better funding model because the current formula based on enrollment makes it difficult to provide quality education for children.
“We have to find money with a funding formula that doesn’t change.”
She said it is difficult to keep schools operating and buses running with a formula that doesn’t factor in the basic costs that schools have including things like hydro and gas rates.
Kershaw is also concerned that Education Minister George Abbott has indicated he will fire the Cowichan trustees if they don’t balance their budget.
“For me personally, it is not democratic if an elected official is removed. We are mandated to put forth a balanced budget but we must also provide good quality education for children…so which one ultimately wins out? There has to be an alternative. It is not a democratic way of doing business,” she emphasized.
She said that the Cowichan board recognizes the importance of education and that is the most democratic way of producing a budget.
Mount Arrowsmith Teachers Association president Deb Morran will also be joining Kershaw at the rally.
She said there will be representatives from teacher associations up and down the Island showing their support.
“We have written their board a letter of support and will be sending teachers down for the June 20 rally,” announced Morran.
She said the Cowichan trustees are simply following through with their mandate to provide education which reflects the actual needs in their school community, rather than budgeting for deeper cuts and greater loss of services.
She too is disturbed by the government’s threat to replace the board with unelected members if they don’t pass a balanced budget.
“I don’t put anything past this government. They talk about the anti bullying policy but they sure do like to bully people. Thats the irony that we as teachers see. Our rights are being negated even though the government has an anti-bullying program.”
The B.C. Teachers Federation is calling on its members to write letters of support to the Cowichan trustees, and to contact their MLAs and the Education Minister before the June 30 budget deadline.