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Funding formula short-changes schools, says board

School District 43 wants an overhaul of education funding in B.C.
Existing funding is "inadequate to support the increasing number of students and their increasingly challenging needs," SD43 states in funding review submission.

School District 43 is calling on the new provincial government to change the way it funds school districts.

An eight-point plan to be submitted in the coming days recommends an overhaul of the current funding model, which SD43 says short-changes local schools by millions of dollars.

“Districts would benefit from having greater ability to monitor and outlay their own funds. When it’s very prescriptive it doesn’t allow us to be able to do what we need for our district,” said Kerri Palmer Issak, chair of the board of education.

According to the funding model review submission, SD43 gets less money for vulnerable and special needs students because of a funding formula that is both inexplicable and obscure.

For example, in 2017/’18, the district will spend $16.9 million more on supports for special needs students than it receives while its vulnerable student population receives half the funds distributed to other districts.

Richmond has 417 students based on 2014 social service index numbers and receives $4,145 per capita, while SD43 has 1,200 students and receives $2,086 per capita.

Funds typically go to programs, youth workers and subsidized lunches and has remained unchanged while the vulnerable student population is increasing, the report notes.

The district is also worried about downloading, including the need to support students with mental health challenges, a population that is also on the rise.

“The existing funding is inadequate to support the increasing number of students and their increasingly challenging needs,” the report states, noting anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts, psychosis and other behavioural and mental health challenges are among areas of concern.

On the capital side, the district needs $10 million over the next two years to build additions to meet the needs of a growing student population and to meet smaller class size and composition needs because of the recent Supreme Court of Canada ruling on the teachers’ collective agreement.

The district would also like to see funding increases to match inflation, more stability and predictability, fewer targeted programs, standards for special needs supports and transparency on how the money is doled out.