EDITORIAL: Tight budgets

Parksville Qualicum Beach school district faces $1.1 budget shortfall

Extra-curricular activities have always been a source of pride for local schools and, perhaps more importantly, a chance for young people to round out their education in cost-effective manner for parents.

In other words, organized club sports and arts programs are expensive, way beyond the means of many families. There are school activities, however, that can give a student a chance to belong, a chance to excel, a chance for a scholarship or an opportunity to learn skills and life lessons they could utilize for the remainder of their days.

A high school football team, for example, brings the school community together. Pep rallies, games in the rain, the camaraderie, the pride, the important facets of teamwork and support can be learned and enjoyed by students who play the game, cheer on their school, fill the water bottles, take care of the equipment  — whatever.

The wildly successful football program at Ballenas Secondary School does this with little financial support from the school district. Parents, like their counterparts in minor hockey, have to foot the bill and come up with creative fundraising activities just so their children can have helmets and a bus ride to their games. Most high schools in this province are all-in behind their football teams, both in spirit and financial support from their districts. Sadly, that’s not the case in District 69.

And it won’t be any time soon.

District 69 is facing a $1.1 million shortfall in its 2013-2014 budget. The province mandates that school district budgets must be balanced, so the local school board and district staff have the unenviable task of cutting here and there and pleading with the education ministry for a break while trying to keep existing programs running and trying to keep the education standards high.

If there are fun parts to being a school board trustee, this isn’t one of them.

The provincial election is less than four months away. Health and education are easily the largest responsibilities of any provincial government. The local candidates can trumpet and repeat the mantras and broad policies from their party head offices all they like, but what can they do to help District 69 meet its financial responsibilities?

In the weeks ahead, we endeavour to let you know if any of our local candidates have a specific plan to address the challenges facing District 69.

— Editorial by John Harding