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VSB warns parents about school budget cuts

The Vancouver School Board is warning parents about impending cuts to its budget, which could mean a shorter school year, faculty and staff layoffs, and cuts to ESL and special education. Other districts face similar reductions.

In a letter to Vancouver parents, Board Chair Patti Bacchus wrote:

The VSB must address a severe funding shortfall of $18.12 million for 2010/2011. Without money to cover this shortfall, we must either sell off assets, find ways to increase revenue or reduce spending, as the Board is legally required to balance its budget.

Based on the preliminary operating grants announced on March 15, the VSB will receive $447.8 million for 2010/2011. This year’s increase is intended to fund, in part, the partial implementation of full-day Kindergarten and provincially approved collective agreements.

However, the current funding formula does not provide for the following annual cost increases faced by school districts:

•salary increments for employees on pay grid systems such as teachers, administrators and other professionals;

•increases in employee benefit costs such as CPP, EI, WCB, MSP, extended health and dental benefits, and employee pension plans; and

•inflation on goods, services and utilities.

I cannot overstate how difficult it will be to make up next year’s funding shortfall. The VSB has already made $51 million in accumulated annual spending reductions in the past eight years, and further reductions will make it increasingly difficult to meet the needs of all students.

As trustees, it is important that we hear from all our stakeholders – parents, students, employees and the general public – about what is essential to maintaining a quality public education system. I invite everyone to participate in our budget process in order to prioritize expenditures and provide feedback on proposed reductions.

Other districts face similar problems. Burnaby School Board's website offers a review of the 2010-2011 budget that projects a $7.8 million shortfall. The shortfall for 2011-2012 would be $9.1 million, and $10.6 million in 2012-2013.

In North Vancouver, the district anticipates a shortfall of $10-12 million over the next three years. On March 30, Prince George announced the closure of six schools.

Crawford Kilian is a contributing editor of The Tyee.

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