Saanich school board to talk funding shortfall today

Special board meeting in Central Saanich on class size and teaching funding from the province

A special meeting of the board of education for School District 63 (Saanich) has been called for this afternoon, to discuss class funding issues.

The District is facing hard decisions after it did not receive all of the money it had asked the province for, in order to comply with the Supreme Court of Canada’s ruling that the B.C. government had to restore class sizes to pre-2002 levels. Earlier this year, the District stated it was almost $1 million short of meeting that requirement, and that the elimination of some staff and teaching positions was inevitable without adequate funding.

Don Peterson, president of the Saanich Teachers’ Association (STA), says it appears the Saanich School District has not been treated the same as other districts in the Greater Victoria region.

“Recently, the Victoria board said it was going to spend $1.2 million on laptops and devices for students,” he said. “I wonder how they have that extra money when some schools here (in District 63) might have to close some computer labs to have room for extra students.”

Those extra students, he explained, are coming out of the court ruling, which reinstated smaller class sizes. That has had the effect of creating more classes — and increased the demand for more teachers.

The Sooke school district, Peterson added, asked for $3 million more on top of its $7 million for the restored learning and working conditions, and received it from the province. Peterson said Saanich had asked for $5.3 million, plus an extra $1.2 million to meet the stipulations of the court ruling — but that money didn’t come.

He said Lochside school in this district is looking at pushing non-enrolling teachers (mostly support teachers) “out of classrooms and into the hallways” to make more room for students. Peterson said he doesn’t want to take anything away from the districts that did get adequate funding, but wonders why Saanich seems to be treated differently.

“It looks like, right now, this district is looking at needing five teachers,” he said, noting his initial estimation earlier this month was 15.

That would be around $700,000 needed to cover those costs, adding there’s no guarantee that money will come.

Peterson said he thinks there is money available, especially after the BC Liberal government announced millions in surplus funds during its Throne Speech this week.

“The Liberal government lost their 15-year battle with teachers,” he said. “Someone’s got to be able to do the job properly.”

The board of School District 63 (Saanich) is scheduled to meet on the issue this afternoon at 4 p.m. at the District office in Central Saanich.