Funding continues to plague B.C. educators, even more so after an additional financial burden was downloaded from the province onto school boards last month.
The Kootenay-Columbia School District 20 passed its budget in April and after making cuts to meet rigorous demands of the Ministry of Education, the provincial government hit them with another expense.
School boards will now have to cover their own insurance premiums, an expense once shared with the province.
The government previously provided school districts with liability coverage as well as replacement of facility and asset losses through a self-insurance School Protection Program.
The Ministry paid for coverage for loss of assets between $3,000 and $1.5 million through its operating budget and school districts paid for liability insurance.
The Ministry informed the school boards that, as of July 1, they will now have to cover $3 million in premiums based on a percentage of each district’s current estimated building replacement value. In addition, the deductible will increase from $3,000 to $10,000 and will only cover claims up to $250,000.
For SD20 it means cutting its budget even more to account for the premiums and deductible, something that is an obvious concern for trustees.
“We only got the letter on May 11, we had already passed our budget, now we’re going to have to look at approximately $40,000 more,” said trustee Bev Maloff at SD 20’s board meeting Monday. “We need communication and we need collaboration.”
The lack of any warning, consultation or input from school districts has many boards characterizing the unilateral move as heavy handed and irresponsible when school districts have already endured millions in budget cuts.
“What really bothers me is that they can spend $600 million on a roof for B.C. Place and they can spend $1 million on advertising for HST and yet we are struggling to have to find $40,000,” said Maloff.
SD20’s share, based on close to $180 million in facilities replacement cost, will be about $30,000 coupled with the eventual $10,000 deductible.
In response the district passed a motion to send an urgent letter to the Ministry of Education to “rescind the Ministry’s sudden decision to shift school building insurance premiums previously paid by the government to local boards of education and the decision to increase the deductible for property loss.”
At the end of the session, Kootenay-Columbia Teachers Union president Andy Davidoff commended the board’s actions and requested they include information from KCTU on educational under funding.
“This board is wrestling with scrambling for funding so I’m glad to see the board is prepared to write letters to the Minister as have many boards,” said Davidoff.
Although the province is claiming the highest education funding ever, the cost per pupil has increased four or five times what the province’s funding has increased, he added.
“So we are asking that this board in their letter please point out to the minister that there is a chronic under funding . . . and that even the secretary-treasurers in the province have published a report that says we need $300 million in education today to meet the shortfall, just to meet the status quo for one year.”