Poll

Parents create petition after SD 20 proposes $200/yr fee for school bussing

Kyra Hoggan
By Kyra Hoggan
April 14th, 2016

Parents of students in School District 20 (SD20) have reached such a level of frustration with ongoing and relentless cuts to education funding in the area that they’ve started a petition, according to Rebecca McDonnell, president of the District Parent Advisory Council.

“This our sixth year of deficits approaching $1 million, and some of them have been in excess of $1 million,” she said, adding the SD20’s proposed budget, unveiled last night, was a last straw for many. The budget, if passed, will see parents charged $200 for their kids to be bussed to school. “There is some anger and resentment among parents that this is further downloading costs on to parents, on top of the ongoing cuts to programs and services in schools. $200 per child is quite a significant expense for some families, and my fear is that it won’t stop here.

“We’re trying to show them that there is some frustration with this scenario, and that we feel this is a slippery slope.”

She said the bulk of the ire is directed at the provincial government, who continue to give school boards too little funding to allow education quality to remain at current levels.

“We want to express our frustration, and not just with the trustees – they’re in a difficult position,”she said, explaining that funding cuts have forced district across the province to make cuts the trustees themselves are loathe to make.

“These deficits are unsustainable and are definitely eroding our quality of education. Our schools are suffering already, and now parents are going to suffer financially,” she said, adding the issue literally impacts every resident in the region, regardless whether they have school-aged children.

“It doesn’t just affect our schools – it’s an issue for local municipal governments as well, as taxpayers consider moving away from our rural economies to urban centres where they can put their children in private schools,” she said. “It impacts our entire economy, it’s an issue for everyone.”

Hence the petition.

“We really need to have some opposition on record,” McDonnell said. “We are doing this in alliance with the unions – Kootenay Columbia Teachers Union and CUPE (school support workers),”she said. “Their union president will be encouraging them to sign the petition too – this has complete support across the board from stakeholders in the district.

“Right now, there should be a copy at every school, and the hope is that every representative will circulate it among their contacts. Our hope is to ask MLA Katrine Conroy to table it in the Legislature.”

SD 20 Trustee Mickey Kinakin said he’s all for the petition.

“I think it’s a very good action on their part, because the problem lies with the government not effectively funding education. They took $300 million out of education in 2002, when the Liberal government was elected, and they never put it back. All the districts are suffering,” Kinakin said, explaining that there’s only so much trustees can do with the limited funding with which they have to work. “The parents are actually putting (the onus) where it belongs. We don’t have the money, that’s the main thing. I give the parents a lot of credit (for doing this).”

The petition reads as follows:

WE THE UNDERSIGNED CITIZENS OF RURAL BRITISH COLUMBIA, do hereby draw the attention of the Government of British Columbia to the following:

WHEREAS, School District 20’s (Kootenay-Columbia) 2016/2017 projected budget deficit increased from approximately $650,000 to $950,000 with the stroke of a ministerial pen and now our Board of Education is forced to propose charging parents $200 per year per student for busing, (in a rural district where the vast majority of our community schools have been closed over the last 20 years and bussing assurances were made) and eliminating equipment and supply budgets for schools to balance its budget.

WHEREAS, public education funding increases in British Columbia have not kept up with increases in basic costs and inflation and British Columbia is now second to last in per student funding in Canada by providing approximately $1000 below the national average per student.

WHEREAS, the Government of British Columbia has refused to follow the recommendations of its Legislative Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services, for the Government of British Columbia to adequately invest in public education. 

AND WHEREAS, the Government of British Columbia has recently transferred surplus funds of $100,000,000 from its Treasury Branch to an “LNG Prosperity Fund”.

THEREFORE WE, THE UNDERSIGNED, need “Prosperity Now” in Rural BC and are hereby petitioning the Government of British Columbia to immediately transfer $100,000,000 from its LNG Prosperity Fund to our public K-12 schools across the province to increase levels of services to all students and to stop any further erosion of the same!

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