Trustees, teachers dismayed by provincial budget

Chilliwack school trustees and Chilliwack teachers were united in their reactions following this week’s provincial budget.

Disappointed.

Chilliwack school trustees and Chilliwack teachers were united in their reactions following this week’s provincial budget.

Disappointed.

The 2014 Budget showed no new funding over the next three years for K-12 education.

Chilliwack school board chair Walt Krahn was alarmed by the decision.

“It certainly puts us in an awkward position,” Krahn said. “We want to do the very, very best for our students,” but “the board is having to bear a number of rising costs, which we have no control over.”

Chilliwack school district has faced several unexpected cost pressures this year.

A $44,000 byelection last November; a $700,000 CUPE salary increase; a 15.6 per cent BC Hydro rate hike. The premiums for the Medical Services Plan (MSP) have also increased. And it’s been suggested that any increase that may come out of teacher bargaining will be paid out of school district coffers.

As well, there will be another election in November.

“We had anticipated additional funding to deal with some of those pressure points,” said Krahn.

Chilliwack Teachers’ Association (CTA) president Clint Johnston was also disappointed, but not surprised.

“We are $1,000-per-student behind the national average; only one other province (Prince Edward Island) is lower,” said Johnston.

“For a government that continues to talk about supporting education, and especially now with their big kick on the importance of trades education and how they need to improve that and train more trades students – well, I think anyone realizes to do that you’re going to need more money.”

Johnston was especially concerned there was nothing allotted in the budget for the B.C. Supreme Court’s recent ruling in favour of the B.C. Teachers’ Federation (BCTF) that ordered the government to pay $2 million to the BCTF and restore class sizes prior to the 2002.

The B.C. government has requested a stay in that ruling until its appeal is heard. (That decision is expected Friday).

“You would hope that they would at least begin to address it with a little bit of money to show that they’re aware that things may not go their way,” said Johnston.

“To respond with absolutely no funding … I don’t think that’s fiscally responsible.”

Education was not the only sector to receive no new funding. In fact, most had the purse strings tightened in the name of balancing the budget.

Health care, social services and liquefied natural gas development were the few areas that saw additional funding.

kbartel@theprogress.com

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