Mon Apr 11 7:00: Operations Policy and Planning Standing Committee and Special Budget Meeting to receive public input: (250) 475-4106 to pre-register for the speakers’ list
Mon Apr 18 7:30 pm: Board Meeting
Wed Apr 20 7 pm: Final debate and vote on 2016/17 Budget
Present: Ferris, Leonard, Loring-Kuhanga, McNally, Nohr, Orcherton, Paynter, Watters, Whiteaker
Last year, no members of the public attended. This year, two members of the public attended, and an informal discussion took place.
1. Welcome from Chair:Loring-Kuhanga
2. Presentation of 2016/17 Budget Context: Secretary-Treasurer Walsh (available documents on SD61 website)
Secretary-Treasurer Walsh presented budget documents that included the updated 2016/17 Annual Budget presentation document including new funding information on the “Operating Forecast Update” slide taking into account the two “new” Provincial grants which cover the previously unfunded labour settlement costs that were downloaded to Districts, and that all holdback funds will be released at the beginning of the school year. As well, SD61 now is experiencing increasing enrolment after a very long period of declining enrolment. This brings in $7166 per student FTE (students with Ministry designations are funded at a higher level but this is not targeted funding).
Given recent Provincial demands for reduction in administrative costs (the dismissive “low hanging fruit” remark ), and the Ministry of Education commitment to “just in time funding” – just in time for what? To prevent building collapse? Certainly not in time for that results in leaking roofs as is the case at SD63 Bayview Middle School, ongoing school seismic upgrade issues , and longstanding and ongoing underfunding of public education in BC generally, this really is giving back money that was taken away. It’s better to have this money than to not have it. But it’s not “new money”.
“Just in time funding” is not the way to fund an ongoing essential public good that has predictable infrastructure costs that are not tied to each student FTE. Public education is not trying to move inventory, although the privatization agenda adherents seem to think that’s what public education in BC is about.
A helpful handout document, “Operating Fund Account Descriptions” (Ministry of Education, 2006), lists expenditure categories with details and examples, in Function 1: Instruction.
Slide 10 of the Budget presentation indicates 4 key functional areas: 1. Instruction 2. District Administration 3. Operations and Maintenance of Facilities 4. Transportation of Students.
Funding for the new Technology for Learning Strategy, aligned with the Strategic Plan, was clarified in this document, available on the Secretary-Treasurer’s pages.
The District Program Summary handout shows this year’s budgeted expenses beside next year’s for line items. I have some questions about Reading Recovery, programming for Gifted students, Learning Directions, and the allocation for Parent Advisory Committee line.You may have some, too.
3. Round Table Discussions
The two members of the public who attended, Carol Pickup (former Board Chair), and Dr. Starla Anderson (former Trustee candidate) , asked questions which led to discussion mainly on special education services.
- Pickup: School closures are occurring all over BC school districts. It’s important to look 25 years out for Facilities planning. Property values her are skyrocketing and the District can’t afford to buy back property once it’s sold.
- Walsh: The new Facilities plan, aligned with the District Strategic Plan, will provide a 10 year forecast.
- Pickup: Class size and composition is an issue still live – in the courts
- Walsh: Yes, in the Supreme Court. A decision is expected in November. SD61 spends over what we are allocated for Special Education. About 1500 students have Ministry designations.
- Pickup: Reported from a classroom teacher that there are on occasion 7 students with special needs in one classroom. Are resources adequate for meaningful inclusion of students with special needs?
- Superintendent Langstraat: SD61 offers choices: congregated programs at a few schools – for example, special classes for students who need intensive behaviour interventions. We speak with parents about choice, so there are both options.
- McNally: Students cannot get funded service no matter how disruptive and troubled, if parents / families will not agree to designation, and in the case of intensive behaviour support needs, if parents will not agree to involve an outside agency, ie a psychologist or psychiatrist.
- Pickup: Integration of every child is not possible full time for every student, especially in academic classes.
- Langstraat: We take into account the most enabling environment for the student.
- Pickup: Is Victor School still open? [This stand-alone school’s website recently disappeared.]
- Langstraat: Yes.
- Pickup: Pleased to hear that.
- Loring-Kuhanga: The Board will send out a Needs Budget letter in which the need for additional funding for students with special needs is identified as a issue.
- Anderson: Strategic Plan values are excellent. The Plan demonstrates lots of collaborative work of the Board. Trustees have two years to make it happen. Have heard that additional funding is going to Craigflower School.
- Langstraat: Yes. Much smaller class sizes are needed at Craigflower, along with increased literacy support. Engaged in ongoing conversation with the Songhees and Esquimalt Nations about what they want for their children. The Board has a commitment to equity [ Budget discussion April 23/14: McNally: Motion to amend a) ii: That the $53,501 surplus be used to provide Craigflower school with additional Reading Recovery time and / or learning support time to be decided by the school staff. / Carried. For: Alpha, Horsman, McEvoy, McNally, Loring-Kuhanga, Nohr Against: Ferris, Leonard, Orcherton ], and what that looks like on the ground.
- Anderson: Tutoring prisoners, and finding that 70% of the students have some form of Learning Disability. These incarcerated people were failed by the school system of her day. They didn’t get the help they needed.
- Loring-Kuhanga: Context for Aboriginal families not wanting designations for children is that many school learning assistance programs were fun off funding that was brought in by Aboriginal students when so many were designated as Learning Disabled. There is a remaining stigma in many people’s minds.
- Orcherton: Is there a wait list to get assessments? Could the District get caught up with designations? How many students are on the wait list for assessments and how long would it take to get caught up?
- [ From 22 years’ experience as a special education teacher in this District, I know that there is the “official” list, 4 students per year, on which the most needy students whose needs can barely be met if at all, rise to the top, and then there is the “really needs to be assessed” list which can have 4 years’ worth of students on it. Parents were not even told that their child needs assessment until the child got a spot on the 4 per year list, in order to not set off alarm bells. The assessment might finally take place in middle school, and parents who can afford it and who suspect that an assessment would be helpful for education programming and support, spend $1000s of their own money to have an assessment done privately.]
- Pickup: What is the state of the arts in SD61? While Chair, we hired a Director for the Arts, but that person was let go.
- Langstraat: The arts are very healthy in SD61, especially music programs.
4. Concluding Remarks: Chair
5. Adjournment : 8 pm
Additional information re BC education funding from PAN (Parent Advocacy Network) Vancouver,) below.