Another round of funding cuts unacceptable, say teachers in lower mainland

VANCOUVER, Sept. 23 /CNW/ - Teachers in the lower mainland are demanding that the Ministry of Education and the province reverse their recent cuts to public schools.

"With the 2009-10 school year just underway, schools are reeling from another round of significant cuts," explains Paul Steer, the new President of the Delta Teachers' Association. "From school repairs and school sports to funding for Parent Advisory Councils, the government is cutting key programs in public education. Parents, trustees, and teachers need to work together speak out and fight back against these cuts."

Among the cuts, the Ministry of Education recently announced the cancellation of the Annual Facility Grant (AFG) for 2009-10, resulting in a loss of $110 million dollars in revenue to school districts.

"This decision comes after Boards of Education submitted their 2009-10 balanced budgets by June 30, based on expected revenues for the coming school year," explains Katharin Midzain, the new President of the Chilliwack Teachers' Association. Boards of Education are now scrambling to deal with more potential shortfalls with very little notice.

"The province's cancellation of the Annual Facilities Grant is completely unacceptable," says Chris Harris, the new President of the Vancouver Elementary School Teachers' Association (VESTA). "School districts don't hold on to 'unspent' money. Judging from the districts reporting shortfalls in the media since the ministry announced the cancellation of the AFG, districts held these funds in reserve to do necessary repairs/upgrades over the summer or in the near future."

School districts around the province are reporting significant shortfalls due to the cancellation of the Annual Facilities Grant (AFG). Vancouver, for example is projecting a $10.6 million shortfall. The Delta School District is short $2.8 million after its AFG cut. And some districts are already cancelling projects to repair and upgrade schools.

"While the ministry claims to be protecting services in the classroom, this should not be done at the expense of health and safety," argues Daniel Storms, the new President of the North Vancouver Teachers' Association. "Ministry policy states that the purpose of the AFG is to protect the health and safety of students and staff by 'correcting deficiencies in design or construction, and unsafe conditions.' There is serious repair work that needs to be done in many of our schools in districts across the lower mainland."

"The elimination of this grant may prevent some disabled students from attending the school that most meets their educational needs, or limit their participation in school events," argues Robert Millard, President of the West Vancouver Teachers' Association.

"Furthermore, without the AFG, money for essential repairs must be taken out of the money earmarked for classroom teaching," notes Jerry Fast, Vice President of the Richmond Teachers' Association.

"It doesn't even make economic sense to cancel the Annual Facility Grant during a recession," says Marianne Neill, President of the Burnaby Teachers' Association. "The main rationale for the grant is to support school boards to upgrade and maintain schools to extend the life of the buildings, presumably resulting in cost-savings over the long-term. This work is primarily performed by the construction trades. It is difficult to justify eliminating a $110 million grant that would have provided significant employment in the construction trades across the province, when BC is struggling to move out of a recession."

"Investing in public education is precisely what the provincial government needs to be doing at this time, not taking away from it," says Grant Osborne, President of the New Westminster Teachers' Association. "We call upon the provincial government to restore the grants that have been cancelled or reduced."

"Meanwhile, school districts are also having to deal with a variety of other initiates in response to H1N1 health concerns and the province's announcement about the introduction of all-day Kindergarten," Rick Guenther, President of the Abbotsford Teachers' Association, continues.

"The government then slashed funding to BC School Sports, the organization that runs school athletic programs across the province," explains Denise Moffatt, President of the Surrey Teachers' Association. "And, on the first day of school, the government cut funding to every single Parent Advisory Council by 50%. As a result, schools and students will lose out on field trips, basic school supplies, library books, computers, and sports equipment."

"Furthermore, in the latest provincial budget, the government froze school district budgets in the face of rising costs," notes Anne Guthrie Warman, President of the Vancouver Secondary Teachers' Association (VSTA).

"The funding freeze ignores the true costs of running a school district, and ignores the real needs of students and the conditions in classroom," says Maria Hedderson, the new President of the Mission Teachers' Union.

"The cuts and the funding freeze mean larger class sizes, more school closures, and less support for children with special needs," predicts Susan Fonseca, President of the Langley Teachers' Association.

Consequently, teachers in the lower mainland call upon the provincial government to:

    
    -   fully fund increased costs to school districts;
    -   reverse all the cuts they have made in the past month;
    -   fund the costs of H1N1 prevention;
    -   grant Harmonized Sales Tax (HST) rebates to school districts; and,
    -   fully fund all-day Kindergarten implementation.
    

"The province needs to live up to its responsibilities in all of these areas," says Beth Miller, the new President of the Sea To Sky Teachers' Association. After eight years of cuts, the public education system cannot take another round of budget trimming and failure to fund on the part of the province."

Teacher representatives across the Lower Mainland agree that parents, teachers, trustees and the public need to work together to stop these cuts because our students deserve better.

SOURCE VESTA: VANCOUVER ELEMENTARY SCHOOL TEACHERS' ASSOCIATION

For further information: For further information: Chilliwack Teachers' Association, Katharin Midzain, 203-45970 Airport Road, Chilliwack, BC, V2P 1A2, (604) 792-9233; Abbotsford District Teachers' Association, Richard Guenther, 2570 Cyril Street, Abbotsford, BC, V2S 2G2, (604) 854-1946; Langley Teachers' Association, Susan Fonseca, 100-5786 Glover Road, Langley, BC, V3A 4H9, (604) 533-1618; Richmond Teachers' Association, Jerry Fast, 210-7360 Westminster Hwy, Richmond, BC, V6X 1A1, (604) 278-2539; Surrey Teachers' Association, Denise Moffatt, 201-9030 King George Hwy, Surrey, BC, V3V 7Y3, (604) 594-5353; Delta Teachers' Association, Paul Steer, 210-5000 Bridge Street, Delta, BC, V4K 2K4, (604) 946-0391; Vancouver Elementary School Teachers' Association (VESTA), Chris Harris, 2915 Commercial Drive, Vancouver, BC, V5N 4C8, (604) 873-8378; Vancouver Secondary Teachers' Association (VSTA), Anne Guthrie Warman, 2915 Commercial Drive, Vancouver, BC, V5N 4C8, (604) 873-5570; New Westminster Teachers' Union, Grant Osborne, 204-800 McBride Boulevard, New Westminster, BC, V3L 2B8, (604) 526-8990; Burnaby Teachers' Association, Marianne Neill, 115-3993 Henning Drive, Burnaby, BC, V5C 6P7, (604) 294-8141; North Vancouver Teachers' Association, Daniel Storms, 100 - 133 West 17th Street, North Vancouver, BC, V7M 1V5, (604) 988-3224; West Vancouver Teachers' Association, Robert Millard, 4915 Marine Drive, West Vancouver, BC, V7W 2P5, (604) 926-1617; Mission Teachers' Union, Maria Hedderson, 100-33344-2nd Avenue, Mission, BC, V2V 1K3, (604) 826-0112; Sea to Sky Teachers' Association, Beth Miller, Suite 104-40775 Tantalus Road, Squamish, BC, V8B 0N2, (604) 892-3056

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VESTA: VANCOUVER ELEMENTARY SCHOOL TEACHERS' ASSOCIATION

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