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Ministry of Education introduces cost-saving measure; BCTF unimpressed

Minister of Education Margaret MacDiarmid today introduced a new system for school districts’ payroll and business administration, with four districts chosen “to provide early leadership.” The B.C. Teachers’ Federation dismissed the new step as “just another diversion.”

In a news release, the ministry said the system “will focus dollars on students instead of administration.”

“We have been clear about the need to find administrative efficiencies and savings in the education system,” said MacDiarmid. “Currently, we have 60 school districts each operating different payroll and business administration systems. By streamlining them, we will put savings back in the classroom.”

Each school district in B.C. manages its business administration operations individually through a number of different systems, using different software, practices and personnel. Business administration includes payroll, vacation scheduling, employee information, substitute teacher scheduling, accounts payable and receivable, financial reporting and travel expenses.

The Province has selected Kamloops-Thompson, Surrey, Vancouver and North Vancouver to be the first school districts to participate, because of their systems replacement schedules and their size. Combined, they serve almost 30 per cent of B.C.’s student population.

...“We know that, combined, school districts spend an estimated $70 million annually for payroll, human resources and financial management services,” said MacDiarmid.

“Through shared services, other sectors have found savings of at least 10 to 15 per cent. A saving of just $1 million is equivalent to the cost of employing 22 teaching assistants in the classroom.”

The BCTF, however, called the new measure “just another diversion.” It quoted outgoing Federation president Irene Lanzinger:

“Schools need more money now. The minister’s press release states there might be a maximum savings of one or two million dollars. But this would not happen until at least two to three years down the road. Vancouver, alone, needs $16 million, just to maintain existing programs and staff for the next school year.”

...“The minister is clearly feeling the heat from parents, teachers, trustees, and communities who are demanding that she stop the cuts. The government found $500 million for a new roof for BC Place, but they refuse to protect our public education system from devastating cuts.”

The “early leadership” districts had nothing to say about the system on Thursday afternoon. Vancouver school district had an April 16 release on its site complaining that Dr. MacDiarmid had made “another inaccurate claim” about being unable to find administrative savings.

North Vancouver had nothing on its site about the measure. Neither did Kamloops/Thompson and Surrey.

Crawford Kilian is a contributing editor of The Tyee.

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