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Coquitlam District school trustees balk at Education Guarantee changes

School District 43 wants to know how the province intends to fund free tuition for graduated adults in the future after changes to the Education Guarantee were made this month.

School District 43 wants to know how the province intends to fund free tuition for graduated adults in the future after changes to the Education Guarantee were made this month.

Trustees are concerned that the province is making it more difficult, and costly, to provide high school academic courses to adults who have already graduated but want to upgrade their education.

"This has sort of been dropped on us," said Coquitlam Trustee Gerri Wallis, who expressed concern about the impact of changes on the district's budget.

The province has whittled down the number of high school academic courses it will offer for free and is changing the way it funds them through B.C. school districts, holding back a significant portion of the funding until the course is completed.

Trustees want to know how the province intends to define course completion, currently attendance, following the education plan and a final mark are required, but if more evidence is needed it could take teachers' time away from teaching.

On Tuesday, trustees decided to send a letter of concern to Deputy Minister of Education James Gorman and to bring the matter up with their colleagues at the B.C. School Trustees Association.

The province is no longer paying tuition fees for graduated adults to upgrade their education except for English 12, Biology 12, Math 11, Math 12, Chemistry 11 and Physics 11. To enroll in any other high school credit courses, graduated adults will have to pay tuition of about $400. School age and non graduated adults continue to be funded in all high school credit courses.

Graduated young adults get a break until they turn 19, but after that, they will have to pay tuition fees for courses other than those listed. They are being encouraged to plan ahead to avoid having to pay tuition feeds for extra courses they might need for post-secondary schooling.

Certain Literacy Foundation courses, mostly in English, Math and Science competency for overseas graduates who are new Canadians will still be free under the Education Guarantee.

However, trustees would also like to see the return of free English 11, Communications 11 courses which graduates from overseas also need to upgrade their education for jobs and Physics 12, and Chemistry 12, which high school graduates may need to get into post-secondary school.

Sarah Husband, the district principal for Continuing Education, recommended the board advocate to protect the Education Guarantee. Although SD43 isn't as hard hit by the changes as other districts because it doesn't offer many courses outside the list of those approved by the Education Guarantee, Husband said, funding issues could arise in the future.

"If courses are not funding sustainable, the community will see an impact in the offerings provided to them," Husband told The News.

Husband is the president of the BC School District Continuing Education Directors' Association and plans to meet with Deputy Education Minister James Gorman in a few weeks to raise the issue.

Among the adults who could be affected by the changes are seniors who may be taking enrichment courses such as Photography 12, which will no longer be free, and others taking Distance Learning courses, that will no longer be free except for the approved academic programs.

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