There are no more schools to close and you can’t squeeze blood from a turnip, says Teri Ferworn.
The board chair of School District 20 has a mission next week to carry the message that “Enough is Enough” to the BC School Trustees Association (BCSTA).
Ferworn will ask her peers at BCSTA’s Annual General Meeting, to join SD20 by submitting two budgets to the Ministry of Education this year.
One budget will be black and white, it has to be balanced as mandated by the province. But she says the other will be more colourful – in the red, in fact.
“We are going to ask for collaboration from other boards to send a “needs” (or deficit) budget along with their balanced budget to the ministry this year,” explained Ferworn, referring to the trustee gathering that began Thursday in Vancouver and runs until April 17. “As well, several of us will be representing our board and will be submitting resolutions to ask for an increase in per pupil funding for students across B.C.”
At the same time Ferworn brings SD20’s request to provincial trustees, a local media campaign will be underway.
Area stakeholders are banding together for “Enough is Enough,” a public awareness campaign about the lack of educational funding and growing school deficits.
“School boards are having to make unpopular decisions and parents are very upset,” said Ferworn. “We had a big meeting and parents were irate, moreso, about the money being cut by the Ministry of Education,” she added. “It’s not us creating the problem – but the school board has to do something and people need to let their elected officials know that this is not acceptable… every board is facing this.”
She encourages communities to become a resounding voice for the public school system.
“We are hoping that our community will rally and support us and our students by writing or phoning the Premier, the Minister of Education and the Minister of Finance,” said Ferworn. “And ask them to provide prosperity now in our schools by increasing the per pupil funding to an adequate level.”
For the 2016/17 school year, $7,218 is the revised base amount for every full-time student in B.C., confirmed SD20 Superintendent Greg Luterbach.
Each district then receives additional grants based on students with unique needs, English language learners, aboriginal learners, adults, salary differential, education plan grant, and unique geographic factors.
Ferworn says SD20 is facing a $760,000 deficit, which forces the board to consider changes to bus transportation – either cutting the service entirely or start charging for it.
“We have to talk about cutting funding for our buses because we have no more schools to close,” she added. “In fact, some of our schools, like Glenmerry Elementary, are bursting at the seams.”
The SD20 board, Kootenay-Columbia Teachers’ Union, CUPE Local 1285 and SD20 District Parent Advisory Council collaborated to spread a unified public message: “Over the past six years, the school district has been forced to cut over $6 million in teachers, support staff, technology, administration, maintenance, custodians, supplies and even close schools in order to balance the budget – tell our government enough is enough and bring prosperity to our schools.”