“To help rural schools in British Columbia stay open, Premier Christy Clark announced a new Rural Education Enhancement Fund today.
Districts outside Greater Victoria, the Lower Mainland, and Kelowna will be able to apply for ongoing provincial funding that recognizes the unique challenges faced in keeping schools open in rural communities.
The amount of funding districts will be eligible for is to be equal to their expected savings from closing the school. Districts would be able to apply annually for Rural Education Enhancement Funding if they meet the following criteria:
- In a rural community or sub-community outside Greater Victoria, the Lower Mainland, and Kelowna areas with a population less than 15,000;
- Closure would eliminate specific grades within the community;
- Funding is used to keep the school open; and
- Closures due to facility condition or extreme enrolment decline are not included.
From the Vancouver Sun:
“The premier said only trustees can decide if the cash — which will be permanent annual funding but comes well after most districts have already finalized their budgets — is enough to prevent facilities from closure.
“Ultimately, they are locally elected,” she said of school board trustees. “We can’t make them take the money. But we hope that they will.”
The Liberal government is in the midst of a flurry of education spending announcements as it prepares for the May 2017 provincial election, in which education funding is expected to be a key concern.
The issue of rural school closures has sparked a grassroots backlash in some communities against Liberal MLAs, who face the prospect of angry voters at the polls.
As she announced the money, Clark sought to credit her rural MLAs, such as Cariboo North’s Coralee Oakes, for convincing her to save the rural schools. Oakes, who is Clark’s minister of small business, won the riding in 2013 from an NDP incumbent by a slim margin, and the Liberals are hoping to hold the swing riding next year as well.”
Sarah’s editorial comment:
Given that school boards in various parts of the province have already voted to close schools and have organized for September based on different structures, it is unclear if those affected boards will be able to drastically change their plans, given the short time until the end of the school year, especially given that this is non-guaranteed and possibly non-continuing funding.