CUPE predicts public education chaos with Ministry funding change

    VANCOUVER, Oct. 24 /CNW/ - School boards are once again being thrown into
chaos by government funding dictates, according to the Canadian Union of
Public Employees, which represents close to 25,000 staff in B.C.'s public
school system.
    In a letter to school district secretary-treasurers, dated October 18,
2007, the Ministry of Education announced a change to the funding formula for
the current year - 2007-08. The change, which could result in up to
$50 million being held back from school districts across the province, comes
after districts have approved preliminary budgets for the year.
    Preliminary discussions in Burnaby indicate that the loss to that
district could be $1.25 million and in New Westminster, early estimates
predict a loss of over $800,000.
    CUPE BC president Barry O'Neill says that the late change to the funding
formula makes a mockery of the planning processes that districts go through.
"Parents, students, staff and teachers all take the time to participate in
budget consultation processes. Then the Ministry, with no notice, changes the
rules after the fact. This just adds to public concerns about the funding of
our K-12 system."
    The funding change would eliminate a guarantee of base funding for
students who take less than eight courses (a full course load) in grades 10
through 12. Before this change, school districts were guaranteed half of the
per student (or full-time equivalent -FTE) funding, and then received an
additional .125 of an FTE for each course the student took, up to maximum
funding of one (1) FTE.
    "Government says that K-12 funding will remain at the same overall level
despite this change. Well, parents can do the math. They already know the
system is under funded. And really, this is about how each district is hit by
an arbitrary decision that will see funding shuffled around and districts
scrambling to manage."
    O'Neill also had strong words for government's contention that existing
surplus funds in districts are evidence that funding can be cut. "Districts
surpluses are one of the only ways to deal with unpredictable and arbitrary
provincial funding decisions. And speaking of surpluses, it seems to me that
given the large provincial government surplus, we should be talking about
better funding and services, not where to cut," says O'Neill.
    CUPE will be encouraging school districts to follow the lead of New
Westminster, which agreed at its October 23 meeting to request government
reconsider the funding change.

For further information:

For further information: Barry O'Neill, CUPE BC president: (604)
340-6768; Roseanne Moran, CUPE Communications: (778) 835-7537

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Canadian Union of Public Employees

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Canadian Union of Public Employees - BC Regional

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