Trustee candidates on funding

School District 33: Trustee hopefuls are asked how they would find additional funding.

In the final of a series of questions posed to the candidates, the Chilliwack Progress asked candidates how they would “seek to increase available funding, or find new revenue sources, for the Chilliwack School District.

Paul McManus:

We must aggressively lobby the government for more funding, banding together with other school districts, teachers, parents, and special interest groups to present a larger, more united front in our efforts.  However, we’ve seen with the most recent labour dispute how our government chose to respond to such action.  Teachers and CUPE members lost thousands of dollars as a result of their efforts to improve conditions for students in our classrooms.

There has recently been much debate about business and corporate involvement with funding assistance in our schools.  I’ve had conversations with people that oppose it, and also with many people who very much support it.  Such partnerships have actually existed in our schools for decades.

I believe we have to get all stakeholders involved in this issue – teachers, administrators, support staff, and parents, and create a task force that develops recommendations on whether or not to move forward in this area.  We live in a democracy – let’s put it to work!


Martha Wiens:

This  questions  is  difficult. Someone has  suggested the public  should have  to  answer this.   The   funding  comes from  the  taxpayers; if in fact they would agree  taxes  be increased, they should have  the  opportunity to voice their  opinion.   Aboriginal   people are asking  for  help as well.  Seniors are also in need  of  increases, on and on  it  goes.  This week,  we  were reminded the  most  vulnerable  children  in care are in great  need  for funding. Education is  also “underfunded”.  Perhaps if we  could  take the resources  in our  lands and  market  them, it would be  one  way  to “dig”  up some   money!  We  have  to  spend  more wisely. The entire  system  needs to be  reviewed for  effective and efficiency!    Public   knowledge would  support  this.  Olivia Chow, in her exit speech, after  not winning the mayoralty  race  in  Toronto, had  this   to say:  There is  no   problem  so  big  , that we cannot  overcome if we  work  together. Can  we  believe her? I want  to.


Barry Neufeld:

I would try to get the Board to look at the very big picture and challenge them to do something about it. The reason public education and all the social services are being squeezed is because of the huge shift in demographics in Canadian Society. There are now more Seniors over the age of 65 than children under the age of 16. Unlike busy working parents, seniors VOTE. And they are more concerned about health care, pensions and policing than public education. But that is short sighted. If we do an inadequate job of preparing our youth to be productive citizens, there will not be enough taxpayers to cover the rising costs of healthcare and pensions. If elected, I would be more active at the provincial level: (the BC School Trustees Ass’n) to ensure Public Education is given higher priority in BC. And I would lobby the Federal Government to reinstate the billions of dollars of Education transfer funds they used to give to the provinces.

Education must be controlled at the community level, not the ivory towers of Ottawa and Victoria.


Dan Coulter:

I will lobby the provincial government to increase funding for education, at least to fully offset cost pressures. Recently the districts costs have risen with higher rates from B.C. Hydro, increased MSP premiums, and an unfunded negotiated contract with CUPE. The government has directly contributed to the districts increased costs without increasing funding. I will advocate on behalf of the district to have the government do the right thing. This would include working with my fellow trustees, through the British Columbia Trustees Association, and with other like minded trustees around the province.

As far as finding new revenue the district is ill suited to doing so. There are currently efforts around the district to raise funds for extracurricular activities. Very little room exists for fundraising or corporate sponsorship that will not impinge on the classroom. The district’s primary job should be to educate children and searching for revenue takes away from that effort. To this end I will strongly advocate on behalf of our students for increased funding.


Ben Besler:

The Chilliwack School District is mostly funded by the provincial government. In enhancing our school district; I believe that promoting a spirit of inclusion in our education system through a continued engagement with community partners will allow us ways to diversify our revenue streams so that we can better the tools we need to promote higher learning and a stronger education system for our district. The Chilliwack School District has been encouraging this through its motto “partners in learning”. A motto I strongly believe in and support.


Walt Krahn:

Adequate funding is the challenge! Our cost per pupil funding has increased 2.3% over the last 4 years, and our funding for our most vulnerable learners has seen no increase at all.  In the meantime, major increases in MSP premiums, hydro, natural gas, CPP, EI, and CUPE increases have impacted our budget.  We need to review the Funding Formula and recommend changes that Government mandated cost increases are covered by Government. We need to initiate maximize funding through accurate identification of vulnerable students. Our Board also needs to implement sound principles of budget allocation, where priorities are funded in advance of other areas. Cutting expenses is just as important as increasing revenue. New revenue sources include; more facility rentals, sell unused land, offer programs to the public during evenings and week-ends ie. I pad or tablet, or learning new languages. Explore the establishment of a Chilliwack District #33 Foundation where Policy and Regulations would specify how the money could be used within the District.  Welcome foreign students, as they enrich the diversity, and provide additional funding.  Schools should be the hub of each community as we embrace life-long learning; therefore, our buildings should be used evenings, week-ends and during the summer!


Rob Stelmaschuk:

I would first find out what the priorities are for the available funding. Then we could best determine what is the most immediate priorities at this time and use the money from the least immediately needed priorities,that could be dealt with at a later date.We should also be looking into Corporate,and Business funding with Guidelines agreed upon by both parties.We cannot keep asking taxpayers to pay the Bills.Maybe the Government should adopt a Priortizing Bill to Government Spending this would alleviate a lot of inappropriate spending.This would give money to those who really need it THE KIDS.


John-Henry Harter:

I would work with partner groups and include teachers and staff in discussions around how we can work together for a healthy, vibrant, properly funded public education system. While I cannot unilaterally increase funding I can make sure this view is clearly represented at the budgeting process and I can also advocate, publicly, and consistently for stable, adequate funding.


Heather Maahs:

In the past this school district always carried a surplus of at least three million dollars. There was a belief that in order to be fiscally responsible, spending down to the last dime wasn’t prudent. Unfortunately this board has found itself in a position of needing to make cuts due to a lack of reserves. If I am reelected, I’d like to reign in spending and begin a process of efficiency review in all departments. Tightening our belts at the top and reinstating a surplus is the first and most important place to begin.