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Teachers say $128 million cut in school budget

B.C. schools face a 2009-10 budget $128 million less than what they were promised last February, a BCTF researcher says. And things will only get worse in coming years.

Margaret White, author of the Education Program Funding report, compared announced education funding in the February 2009 budget with what was delivered in the post-election September budget:

Education Program funding for 2009–10 in the September 2009 budget update is about $128 million less than the funding allocated in the February 2009 budget announcement. As public-school funding comprises 95% of all Education Program Funding, this will have a significant impact on public education budgets.

... instead of a 73.2-million-dollar funding increase to Education Programs as announced in February 2009, Education Program funding decreased by $54.8 million in the September 2009 updated budget.

After accounting for the transfer of $50 million in CommunityLINK funding to the Ministry of Housing and Social Development, there is still a funding decrease of $5 million since 2008–09 and $78 million less funding than was allocated in the February 2009 budget.

The report described the impact, notably the “unexpected” cancellation of the $110 million Annual Facility Grant that schools across the province had been counting on for needed renovations and upgrades.

As well, increased premiums for the Medical Service Plan, announced in the September budget, will have to be paid by boards out of existing funds, since Victoria provided nothing to cover the additional cost.

Other cost pressures include negotiated salary increases, increased heat and electricity costs if a BC Hydro rate increase is approved, and H1N1-prevention costs incurred by schools. The Vancouver School Board estimates the cost of the board’s efforts to prevent the H1N1 virus will range from $200,000 to $300,000. The Harmonized Sales Tax, effective July 1, 2010 could significantly increase costs to districts unless school boards receive a rebate for the 7% provincial portion of the HST.

In addition to other cutbacks like the reduction in gaming grants to Parent Advisory Councils and cuts to BC School Sports, the report also discussed reductions in the next two school years: “$127.5 million less funding for Education Programs expenses in 2010-11 and $64.5 million less in 2011-12, with a cumulative decrease of $320 million over three years.”

Crawford Kilian is a contributing editor of The Tyee.

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