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School board and education ministry fight over funding

To say B.C.’s education minister and Vancouver School Board trustees simply agreed to disagree at a closed-door meeting to discuss a special advisor’s report would be the understatement of this electoral cycle.

Minister Margaret MacDiarmid exited what was supposed to be an hour-long meeting early only to describe the encounter Tuesday morning at SFU Harbour Centre as "difficult" and "challenging".

The two sides, bound to work together under the province’s school act, have boiled the central issue down to money, according to VSB chairwoman Patti Bacchus.

"She doesn’t really want to talk about funding," Bacchus said of MacDiarmid. "We know school districts throughout B.C. will say, and certainly our B.C. School Trustees Association has said that, the top three issues for education in British Columbia are funding, funding, funding. Yet, we have a minister who refuses to talk about the issue."

MacDiarmid attempted to quash the funding debate once and for all by declaring no new education dollars will be made available to any district for the 2010-11 school year.

Instead, she continually returned comptroller general Cheryl Wenezenki-Yolland’s 88-page report critiquing the board’s slant towards advocacy over stewardship.

"They’re seeming to me to be defending the status quo and that would be something the comptroller general definitely in her report has not recommended," she said. "I didn’t hear much interest in that but it is early days."

The two sides have scheduled another meeting. The previous VSB budget proposal goes back on the agenda June 14.

Dharm Makwana reports for 24 Hours Vancouver.

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