School funding problems a provincial issue — DPAC
Insufficient funding is at the heart of School District 43's deficit woes, says the president of the District Parent Advisory Council.
And Heidi Hass Gable would like to see more provincial lobbying by parents' groups.
Unlike SD43 teachers and support workers, whose unions have been vocal at school board meetings about the district's $7.5-million deficit, the local DPAC executive has been taking a wait-and-see approach, Hass Gable said.
She said it's difficult for parents to comment on the specifics of district cost-cutting proposals, which have so far been limited to supplies, discretionary spending and substitute teaching costs. But she said parents worry about what the long-term effects of budget cutting will be on students, especially if a deficit needs to be carried over and paid back in future years.
"Our concern is what impact does this have on kids," Hass Gable said, noting that it's early in the deficit-reduction process and the district likely won't know the final number until the end of the school year.
And there isn't likely to be any relief in the budget proposed by the BC Liberal government Tuesday. Both the BC Teachers' Federation and the BC School Trustees Association say education spending will be flat even though cost pressures are mounting.
Next Tuesday, SD43's board of education is expected to approve an amended budget for the 2012/’13 school year that should go some way toward addressing some current funding issues.
In the meantime, Hass Gable said, she would like to see parent groups be more proactive in raising concerns about funding issues in schools, pointing out that other districts are also facing deficits or cost-cutting.
For example, she's concerned the government isn't adequately funding its personalized learning agenda, resulting in inequities where some school PACs can afford to pay for technology with fundraising while other schools lag behind.
"How districts are being set up for technology to make sure we don't have the haves and the have-nots," she asked, noting that Lower Mainland parent advisory councils will be meeting in Coquitlam in mid-April to discuss issues of mutual concern.
Meanwhile, SD43 is looking at gathering more input from parents on school needs with a new program called Thoughtstream which aggregates comments from email responses to a survey. Hass Gable said she hopes Thoughtstream will make it easier for parents to comment on financing issues dealing with the 2013/’14 budget.
"It will inform school-level budgeting and PAC budgeting, and provide feedback to the district as well," she said, possibly giving "a broader voice for parents [as to] what the concerns are."
A demonstration of Thoughtstream will take place at the next DPAC meeting slated for 7 to 9 p.m., Feb. 27 in the Gallery Room at Winslow Centre, 1100 Winslow Ave., Coquitlam.