The Maple Ridge – Pitt Meadows Board of Education is very concerned about the negative impact this provincial budget will have on our students, staff and families. Our school district has already made service-level reductions in the amount of $8M over the past two budget years, and has reduced staffing by 70 positions over and above reductions triggered by enrolment decline. The recent feedback our Board has received from education partners, parents and students has confirmed the negative impact of these deep reductions.
While the provincial budget includes increases to cover the cost of last year’s negotiated labour agreements, it provides no funding to cover the cost of inflation, increases in MSP premiums, BC Hydro increases, or increases to management salaries, which have been frozen since 2009.
Instead of providing the necessary funding to cover these shortfalls, the budget calls for a $29M reduction in education expenditures for the 2015/16 budget year, and an additional $25M reduction for the 2016/17 budget year. For the Maple Ridge – Pitt Meadows School District, this amounts to a loss of $0.7 million for 2015/16 and a loss of $0.6 million for 2016/17.
As a result of these reductions, our anticipated funding shortfall for the 2015/6 budget year will be increased by an additional $0.7 million to an estimated $2.4 million. We are beginning our 2015/16 budget consultation process in early April, and will be inviting input from our education partners, parents, students and the general public as we address these continuing challenges to our budget.
We are, as a Board, absolutely disheartened by the government’s response to our clearly stated concerns about the size of the budget reductions we have had to implement over the past two years. We have articulated these concerns both in person to our local MLAs Marc Dalton and Doug Bing, and by letter to Minister of Education Peter Fassbender. We requested an in-person meeting with Minister Fassbender as well as a response to several of our key questions. To-date, the Minister has not responded to our questions, nor has his office set a date for the requested meeting.
Our Board agrees with BC School Trustees Association President Teresa Rezansoff, who concludes that the new provincial budget will mean further cuts in school districts across this province. As Ms. Rezansoff notes, “the money allocated in the 2015/16 provincial budget for public education simply will not cover our increasing costs, and now we are seeing millions of dollars taken away from school districts for other uses.”
The government’s own select standing committee on government finance has acknowledged the significant funding shortfalls experienced by Boards of Education in this province, and in each of the past two years has recommended increases to core education funding to address those shortfalls.
It is clear to us that the provincial government is ignoring the concerns expressed across the province by those elected to deliver K-12 education in our communities.