B.C. trustees and teachers agree: It’s not an education budget

Janet Steffenhagen, Vancouver Sun

No increase in education funding in Tuesday’s budget is bad news for schools and bad news for students.

That was the assessment from the B.C. Teachers’ Federation (BCTF) and the B.C. School Trustees’ Association (BCSTA). Flat funding means boards of education will have to cover inflationary costs and new pension and MSP expenses out of existing dollars.

“Regrettably, this is not an education budget,” BCSTA president Michael McEvoy said in an interview. “Trustees around the province are going to be very concerned that the government is not funding any of the increased cost pressures that we’re facing.”

Secretary-treasurers estimate that cost pressures for boards of education will be about $134 million this year. But the budget says provincial education funding will remain unchanged at $4.7 billion for the next three years (although all figures are questionable given that British Columbians will be going to the polls in May).

“This is going to mean cuts in districts around the province,” McEvoy said. “I think we owe our students a little bit more than this.”

The budget will also put pressure on boards trying to reach new contracts with the BCTF and school support workers. This year, for the first time in a decade, the BCTF is able to bargain class size and composition and teachers are expecting improvements, said the union’s second vice-president, Glen Hansman.

But the only new proposal from the Liberals is for a $1 million for the school fruit and vegetable nutritional program http://www.sfvnp.ca/ which will now include milk, he said.

Hansman also noted there is no money in the budget for the 10-year contract that Premier Christy Clark has been promoting as a way of bringing stability to public education.