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'We are greatly saddened' — SD43 board to Minister Fassbender

The Tri-Cities' board of education is giving Education Minister Peter Fassbender some food for thought as he works his way through one of most stalemated teachers' disputes in B.C.'s history.

As a summer calm descends on the once-feverish negotiations between the BC Teachers' Federation and the government's bargaining arm, the BC Public School Employers' Association (BCPSEA), a feisty letter laying out School District 43's funding concerns has been sent out to the minster and a who's who of government and education officials, including local politicians and MLAs.

"The public needs to know," said Coquitlam Trustee Brian Robinson, who admitted to being on the cusp of a rant.

The letter lays out the SD43's frustration with what it deems as chronic underfunding in a system beset with demands and inflationary cost pressures.

Taking the 2009/’10 year as its baseline, the district says per-student funding should be $7,492, not $6,966 allowing for inflation, a $526 difference — and a significant one.

"Considering our student base, it demonstrates that we have had to absorb $16.3 million in cost pressures over the past five years," the letter states. "It is our position that these monies be returned to our district."

VULNERABLE AND MOST IN NEED

While the district managed to balance its budget for the 2014/’15 school year, it did so with $13.4 million in cuts, which will hurt students who are "most vulnerable and most in need."

The letter states that 91 teaching jobs have been cut, including psychologists, speech language pathologists, and others who work with special needs students.

As well, 33.5 education support positions have been eliminated, including teaching assistants, youth workers and library clerks.

Two administrators' positions have also been cut along with 55 support staff positions, including noon hour supervisors and maintenance positions, the letter further states.

"We are greatly saddened that the cuts we were forced to make will limit our ability to help vulnerable students achieve their full potential as individuals and citizens," the district says in the letter.

In addition to covering inflationary costs for the last five years, the board wants inflation to be factored into future funding; labour agreements and class sizes and composition to be fully funded; funding to be increased for programs for vulnerable students; and a review to be conducted of funding to ensure it's equitable.

Fassbender has not yet responded to the district's second request for a face-to-face meeting and for now, the letter will have to suffice in raising board's issues, board chair and PoMo Trustee Melissa Hyndes said.

"It outlines what we have lost," she said. "It's another piece of advocacy."

The board is considering publishing the letter in a newspaper advertisement later this summer or this fall.

dstrandberg@tricitynews.com

 

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