I am pleased to announce that the provincial government is redirecting $168,780 in administrative savings back to Quesnel School District 28 to help it deal with local cost pressures and provide front line services for students.
Over the last many months, I have met with and taken the messages I have heard from both the School District Trustees, CUPE, First Nations band members as well as constituents to Victoria, and today’s announcement is part of this collaboration.
While the school district has autonomy, there is a fear amongst constituents of the financial trickledown effect of closing rural schools. The decision to close Kersley and Parkland reduces the small community supplement by $378,000 (a provincial fund designed to support keeping rural schools open) and the decision also reduces the operation funding for geographic factors by $35,500. Rural schools bring additional partnerships to the table such as the Regional District for local recreation and library services. Finally, there is a tipping point on how long parents will allow their children to be on a bus (especially small children) I have heard from concerned parents that over an hour is that tipping point over that they will consider home schooling their children. I have heard from ?Esdilagh First Nation and Lhtako Dene First Nation members that their families are struggling with this decision. This is all lost revenue to the school district and is putting considerable pressure on our children.
It’s never easy to make the tough decisions and I thank the Quesnel School District for their diligent work to reduce administrative costs.I heard from them clearly about the challenges they were having funding the landmark labour stability agreement reached with the B.C. Teachers’ Federation and with CUPE. In April, the provincial government responded and announced additional funds to the school districts to cover the wage increases. For exempt staff and upper management, trustees set these amounts for increase and was not part of the April announcement.
The Chair raised concerns last week in the media about loss of funding protection and I can confirm that the School District is not expected to come out of funding protection this year or next and is estimated to receive $2,187,485 in funding protection for 2016/17 school year.
I was also proud to support the School District's application to invest in Correlieu Secondary School. Last week the Province provided $1,040,500.00 for capital upgrades through the School Enhancement Program.
It is my hope to meet with the school district’s chair quickly to discuss this funding and options to keep rural schools open, ensuring the region’s smaller communities continue to be well-served and minimizing the time students need to travel to-and-from school on buses.
I hope this announcement will encourage trustees not to dismiss the recommendations from rural communities and try to keep their schools open, ensuring these important financial resources continue to benefit the entire district. It’s important we work in collaboration to ensure our region’s students continue to receive the high-quality instruction that has made B.C. a world-leader in educational outcomes.