EDITORIAL: Getting a lesson in deficits

After having its budget reform proposal expelled by the B.C. Liberal government in 2014, the School District 69 (Qualicum) Board of Trustees is hoping a resubmission will move to the head of the class with the recently installed New Democrat government.

Trustees are seeking the ability to run budget deficits through investments that do not pay dividends in the same fiscal year — a strict no-no under a Schools Act that requires income and expenditures to balance each year.

In an example trustees provided in a letter to the Minister of Education and the Minister of Finance early in November, they cited an opportunity to buy a gutted house in a developing area near a local secondary school.

The house, trustee say, could have provided students lessons covering various trades programs, computer design and math. And possibly real estate, as the renovated house could later be sold, presumably at a profit.

Instead, it turned into a crash course in Economics 101. And in postgraduate-level irony.

With a tight timeline to commit to purchasing the building trustees were willing to dip into their budget surplus for the year. The problem was, that surplus needed to be redirected to cover ministry-mandated administrative cuts, which districts across the province were saddled with for three straight years.

Whether their “What I did on my school board meeting” essay earns a passing grade from the NDP is very much in question. Even its own membership was mixed on the concept of introducing the word deficit to what remains, after all, a publicly funded budget.

Public education is evolving, moving more and more out of its brick-and-mortar classrooms and into the community in a blurring of the lines between the public and private realms.

Students are engaging in in ever-expanding job training and education programs, especially in the trades, and some districts have even updated the job title of their superintendents to include the title of CEO.

School District 69 has gotten creative in turning previously closed school properties into income-producing ventures. Qualicum Commons now hosts a mix of private business and social services organizations.

That should earn the district an A grade in entrepreneurship. What trustees would really like is an A-OK on their Schools Act proposal.

— Parksville Qualicum Beach News

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