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MacDiarmid orders Vancouver School Board to submit balanced budget by June 18

Minister of Education Margaret MacDiarmid today issued a directive to the Vancouver School Board, ordering it to submit, by June 18, a balanced budget that "takes full consideration" of the Comptroller General's report and recommendations.

In a letter to the VSB, MacDiarmid wrote:

As Minister of Education, I have a responsibility to ensure education dollars are being spent prudently and in the best interest of students. The Comptroller's recommendations, if acted upon, will help the Board develop a balanced budget that achieves savings, reduces waste and is in the best interest of students. As such, I am issuing the following Ministerial Directive Order to the Board:

The Board of Education for the Vancouver School District (School District #39) must:

1) Direct its senior management team to develop a balanced budget that:

a) takes full consideration of the recommendations directed to the Vancouver Board of Education set out in the Office of the Comptroller General’s June 2010 "Report on The Vancouver School Board (School District 39);" and

b) is drafted with the best interests of students, student achievement and parents as the paramount considerations; and

2) On or before June 18, 2010, submit the draft budget to the Minister for her review prior to that budget being voted on by the Vancouver Board of Education.

In a news conference, MacDiarmid said the VSB had been "largely dismissive" of the Comptroller General's report. She said that she and the board had confidence in Vancouver's senior management team and its ability to put together a balanced budget by June 18.

Asked about the discrepancy between the $11 million in savings identified by the Comptroller General and the $16 million that the VSB says it needs, MacDiarmid said: "It's clear that the Vancouver School Board has choices and they've made poor choices."

She did not make it clear how the budget would show that the Comptroller General's recommendations had been taken into consideration, but also said that it was too late for the VSB to close schools by this fall. School closures were among the CG's recommendations.

MacDiarmid said she has the ability to remove the board, "but I'm not considering that at this time."

Crawford Kilian is a contributing editor of The Tyee.

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