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BCTF supports Cowichan Valley 'restoration' budget

The BC Teachers' Federation is putting their support behind the only school district to submit a needs-based budget this year.

In a press release issued this morning, the teachers' union praised the Cowichan Valley School District for voting 5-4 in favour of submitting a deficit budget on May 16. The Board has since submitted the budget, which calls for $3,771,661 in additional funding for services like teacher librarians, ESL teachers, and special needs teachers.

"We are really cheering on these trustees who have taken such a strong stand on behalf of public education and the students and teachers of their community. With their actions, they are saying it’s time to end the decade of cuts in our schools and we couldn’t agree more," reads a statement from union President Susan Lambert in the release.

“It is such a fallacy in a province as wealthy as British Columbia to say that public education is too costly. If we cannot afford to educate our children, what society can?”

B.C. School Act requires all school districts to submit balanced budgets or face the possibility of dismissal. Education Minister George Abbott has already told the media he will replace the Cowichan Valley board if they don't submit a balanced budget next month.

School Board Chair Eden Haythornthwaite told The Tyee the budget is part of a three-year "restoration" plan for the district designed to reinstate $10.9 million in services cut in the last few years. Haythornthwaite says she and four other members of the board were elected on a platform that promised to deliver a needs-based budget for the district.

"All these things that are in our restoration piece are things that we've had within the last couple of years and lost. If we just continue to do it, what good are we to the community? We're no good. We're just a beard for the ministry," she says.

Haythornthwaite says the community has been very supportive of the move, especially the Cowichan Tribes, the largest First Nations band in British Columbia, whose council has passed a motion of support for the budget. The board has already met once with Deputy Education Minister James Gorman, but Haythornthwaite says further requests to meet with the ministry have not been fulfilled.

In the meantime the district has two upcoming rallies planned outside the school board office on June 6 and 20.

The Vancouver School Board submitted a needs-based budget in 2010, followed by the Saanich School Board in 2011. After several meetings with the ministry, both boards eventually submitted balanced budgets.

Katie Hyslop reports on youth issues and education for The Tyee Solutions Society.

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