As a music educator and school principal in the Greater Victoria School District (SD61) I had the privilege of working in an era (10 years ago) when music programs from K-12 were valued and supported as an integral component of our students’ education. Our district was proud to be a leader, recognizing that stable music programs provide a multitude of benefits to our students, to our community, and to our society.
How were music programs funded in the past and why are they on the chopping block now? According to MLA Murray Rankin, SD61 had an $18 million accumulated operating surplus at the end of the 2019/20 school year. The board of education needs to answer specifically how this surplus has disappeared and has been replaced by a $7 million deficit for 2021/22.
The loss in revenue from international students and school rentals has been quoted as two of the reasons the district is facing a deficit. Firstly, it is inconceivable that the district is funding music programs via international student revenues and district rentals. Secondly, the board of education needs to provide the public with a detailed accounting of how many district principals/vice-principals are assigned to the board office, including their roles in supporting higher student achievement, strong mental health, improved self-confidence, and a sense of belonging, all of which are provided in our school choirs, bands, and strings programs by dedicated teachers earning far less than an administrative wage.