Seven Summits not responsible for SD20’s financial woes

"First, while it’s true that Seven Summits has financially hurt the District, they are absolutely not responsible for the damage."

Most of us know the terrible situation SD20 finds itself in, needing to cut $730,000 from next year’s budget, when district finances have already been cut to the bone over the years. I’ve heard it argued that Rossland’s independent Seven Summits Centre for Learning is partly responsible for the problem, having taken students from SD20, and thereby lowered transfers from the Ministry. That’s wrong for two reasons.

First, while it’s true that Seven Summits has financially hurt the District, they are absolutely not responsible for the damage.

When SD20 was considering closing MacLean School in Rossland, and cutting back grades at RSS, we told them repeatedly that this would happen. At $9000 per student, depending on your assumptions, it only takes about 20 Rossland students dropping out of SD20 to dissolve all the projected savings from shutting down our schools.

I gave the trustees a detailed spreadsheet as part of the online submissions, showing them what exactly what would happen under the various scenarios.  I told them again when they convened a public session in Rossland.  And then I told them again when they met with Rossland’s PACs.

I also warned them they would be throwing away potential revenues from Red Mountain Academies’ out of province and international students. The Academies now partner with Seven Summits instead of SD20. And I warned that the numbers would get worse over time, as whatever independent option Rossland created got more mature and more attractive as an alternative to Crowe.

And that was just one person’s input – many other people were telling them this.

So yes, Seven Summits is hurting the District’s finances, but are they responsible for the District’s problem? No. The Trustees were the ones holding the gun when SD20 shot itself in the foot.  (Just as they did when we warned them that no French immersion would lead to the school in Rossland that now enrols 45 students that would otherwise be in SD20.)

In case anyone thinks I relish having been right about all that, think again. Both my kids are in the public system, and will feel all the impacts of funding shortfalls and cutbacks, as will all the other blameless children of this district. There’s no joy in saying “I told you so” when you were predicting disaster.

Second, Seven Summits is only a small piece of SD20s woes.  SD20 had around 100 students less in September than they expected, but Seven Summits only has 22 enrolled local students (plus out-of-province and international students). Moreover, a huge chunk of the District’s deficit is from paying for a provincially-imposed CUPE contract settlement.

Ultimately, the downloading of costs like this from the Ministry, the adverse funding formula the Province uses, and this government’s disregard for the value of education – those are our common enemies.  Not Rossland’s independent school.

Aaron CosbeyRossland