We may not have a surplus of budget, but we certainly have a surplus of issues. District first, and then on to the province.
District budget. I would like to thank Allan Reed and Darleen Patterson for finding the time to answer some of DPAC’s budget questions. I can’t say that DPAC is thrilled about the budget, and the financial constraints that have gone into this budget. We’re also concerned over seeing a structural deficit appear in the budget again. We would like to see more attention paid to making it more understandable – there is confusion caused by the budgetary hokey pokey of moving items from one area to another – but we also respect time constraints.
There really ought to be more public questions and public information available about the budget, especially given the similarity between the size of this budget and the city budget – where there is much more discourse. Perhaps if there was more school-level budget information provided, that would be of assistance – that’s where it really seems to matter to people.
Which brings us to the Schedule of Fees and Deposits, as published in this board agenda package. As a reminder, having that package available in advance is highly preferable.
As noted, according to the school act, “A board must publish a schedule of the fees to be charged and deposits required and must make the schedule available to students and to children registered under section 13 and to the parents of those students and children before the beginning of the school year.”
Further on in the Act, if you charge fees, then you must have policies and procedures to facilitate participation by students who would otherwise be excluded from the course, class or program because of financial hardship.
You have a financial hardship policy, which states that that access to goods and services, as well as to co-curricular programs and opportunities (for example, field trips) is available to all students, and no student is to be denied that access because of financial hardship. It also states that “All communication with students and/or parents regarding fees and deposits must include a statement that explains that fees will not be a barrier to student participation in school activities.”
Please ensure that all communications – including the communication in this agenda package – includes that the information that fees will not be a barrier for students. This information in this document is not good enough.
On to provincial matters.
Our DPAC position has been to have no public opinion on bargaining, other than expressing a desire that it be fair and negotiated. That is as it relates to wages and benefits. At this point, we now have class size and composition being bargained as well, which is fair game for parent comment. The BCPSEA website, and now DPAC website, has both BCTF and government proposals publicly available, and we have read them with interest. The BCTF proposal seems preferable when it comes to learning specialist staffing levels, although I have to express some concern over where some of these people will be found – I’m not aware of vast numbers of unemployed speech language pathologists, for example. The financial impact of the BCTF proposals for class size are concerning – especially given the province’s downloading of costs – as it would require quite a lot of money, in order for our district to be able to fit in the additional classrooms and schools that would be required. We would also require policy on how to remove students from schools, when they no longer fit. When it comes to class composition issues, the BCPSEA proposal is far too flexible and fuzzy, and the BCTF proposal is far too inflexible. Both suck.
Which brings me to a very important point – the level of public discourse, and especially the level of public discourse used in front of our children. As a parent, when I see this level of discourse happening in my house, I use my mom voice and say: “I don’t care who started it, I want you both to go to your rooms and not come out until you can talk nicely to each other. Stop scaring the other kids by fighting.” We do not want our kids to be told that teachers are in it only for the money. We do not want our kids told that Christy Clark is making teachers eat lunch outside. We do not want to hear name calling, accusations of attempting to ruin public education, accusations of ruining the economy, or thoughtless decision making. We want this conducted rationally, professionally, and kept away from the kids.
I believe that as a district, we can model some of this to the province, as a whole. We can advocate for our children, for public education, with both passion and respect for all.
Thank you, for your time.