Vancouver teachers hold rally today to defend schools from more cuts

VANCOUVER, March 1 /CNW/ - "Help our public education system deliver real equity and meaningful support," ask Anne Guthrie Warman, President of the Vancouver Secondary Teachers' Association and Chris Harris, President of the Vancouver Elementary School Teachers' Association. "Every Vancouver teacher and student will be affected by the huge projected deficit of the Vancouver School Board, and both our organizations will be holding a rally at the Minister of Education's constituency office on March 1st for members of the school community and members of the public to express, yet again, the dire need for a properly funded public education system."

Teachers, parents, students and others have been invited to attend the rally, which will be held Monday, March 1st, 2010, 3:30 - 4:30 pm, at the Minister of Education's constituency office on the 1200 Block of W. Broadway in Vancouver.

"Secretary Treasurers of school districts across the province have warned of an unprecedented number of unfunded obligations imposed by your government for 2010-11," explains Anne Guthrie Warman. "As a result, Boards of Education will be forced to close schools, cut deeply into every classroom across the province and leave vulnerable students behind unless you act immediately to cover all these costs in the upcoming provincial budget. The Vancouver school district will not be immune to this." The Vancouver school district gave notice in January that massive teacher layoffs are one of the likely outcomes of this year's budget-setting process should the province not address the inadequacy of its funding.

"Since 2002/03, the Vancouver School Board has had to deal with more than $40 million in accumulated budget shortfalls," Chris Harris states. "Looking ahead, the district knows its operating costs will continue to rise over the coming years, and it is important that those costs are fully funded, otherwise, the district could face a $25-million shortfall next year. This translates into huge cuts to kids' learning."

"The Minister of Education and her predecessors have been fond of claiming that education funding is at an all time high, but they have ignored huge unfunded costs that they have downloaded to school districts and the real price of providing the services that students need," says Anne Guthrie Warman. "The $300 million funding shortfall facing BC public schools for 2010-11 arises from a series of decisions, all made by the government at the provincial level."

Some of these decisions include:

    -   Loss of the Annual Facilities Grant
    -   Teacher salary and benefit increases (provincially negotiated)
    -   New Carbon Tax and carbon offset charges
    -   Increased MSP and WCB premiums
    -   New costs for implementing all day kindergarten
    -   Additional costs of provincially-legislated class size limits
    -   Imposition of new curricular and other school-based programs

"When the provincial government imposes new costs and fails to fund them, it is the children of this province who are short-changed," says Chris Harris. "That is not responsible. Using declining enrolment as a smoke-screen does not fool anyone anymore. The provincial government has failed to fund public schools properly, even with declining enrolment taken into consideration."

"Public education is the best investment we can make," says Anne Guthrie Warman. "British Columbians have consistently reaffirmed that we are willing to pay for it and we're urging Premier Gordon Campbell and his government again to fully fund all provincially-mandated costs for 2010-11 and beyond, thus providing local Boards with the stable foundation they need for sound management of our public schools."


For further information: For further information: Anne Guthrie Warman, (604) 873-5570 (office) or (604) 786-2651 (cell); or Chris Harris, (604) 873-8378

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