Wednesday, May 2, 2018

School District 52 wants Provincial funding policy that will achieve more than "Robbing Peter to Pay Paul"

School District 52 has submitted a letter for consideration by the
panel put in place by the BC Government to review funding for Public Schools

School District 52 has shared a number of key thoughts with  the Province's Independent Review Panel, providing their view of a range of issues that are faced by rural school districts such as Prince Rupert when it comes to delivering education programs to students.

The letter to the panel, dated April 24th provides a detailed response to the call for input on the current funding formula review that is currently underway by the provincial government.

The Prince Rupert document is one of a number of similar contributions to the panel of review led by Chris Trumpy, a former Deputy Finance Minister with the province of British Columbia.

The five page document authored by Board Chair Tina Last covers a number of key elements related to the funding model currently in place as well as the Board's hopes for future.

In addition to a short synopsis of the situation related to each element, School District 52 offers up its recommendations for the review panel as to how they hope to see the funding formula evolve to address the needs on the North Coast.

Among some of the key takeaways found in the Correspondence from Ms. Last are:

Funding protection

The current funding model, which maintains funding at a minimum of 98.5% of the previous year, provides predictability to the Board on future funding levels. Given the small amount of Provincial money designated for funding protection,  it is our Board's hope that the existing system would be grandfathered for those districts that remain in funding protection. In particular, we are not looking at any future increases, but we would hope that there would be gradual reductions until funding protection is eliminated.

Monitoring of Funding

The Funding Model Review Discussion Paper raises a number of questions about a possible link between funding and student results. There is a risk that his would create additional reporting requirements for districts. More importantly, this would seem to move the Province towards and American model where 'successful' schools receive more money and schools with poorer results receiving less money. We all know that there are many factors that influence a student's success that are outside the school's ability to influence.  Our district does not support tying funding to student results.

Funding of Rural/Remote Districts

Prince Rupert has had many economic challenges in the past decade. With the growth of the port industry is bringing new life to our community, there are significant numbers of vulnerable students living in poverty. Given the significant need in our district, and the high cost of meeting that need, it is imperative that he funding be provided to remote and rural districts is not just maintained, but enhanced.


The most pressing need is the provision of ferry services for students living in the Metlakatla First Nation. This community, supported by the First Nations Education Steering Committee continues to press for the restoration of funding for this service. We understand that FNESC is negotiating with the Federal and Provincial governments to address this, and other,  transportation issues affecting students living on reserves. We ask the Panel to monitor the outcome of these negotiations as part of their deliberations.

The cost of travelling between communities is a significant issue for our students and families, Whether it is a sports team, band or drama ensemble, the ability to compete against other schools requires trips down the highway - or a flight to Vancouver for a Provincial tournament. Long distances, winter driving conditions and one of the most expensive airports in the province all contribute to added cost for our families. We hope the Panel will find ways to ensure that all students have an equal opportunity to participate in intra-mural competitions at a reasonable cost.

Predictable Funding

Under the principle of stable and predictable funding, we recommend that Boards of Education have funding certainty over a three year period. Access to contingent funding to address unexpected cost pressures should also be considered.

Fixed Funding Allocations

Our recommendation is that both operating and special purpose funds must be adjusted on a regular basis to address cost increases - particularly those that are outside the control of the Board of Education.

Surplus Funds

In the current year, our district has implemented a formal surplus policy so that the designation of surplus funds is clear and transparent. The policy includes the possibility that funds may need to accumulate over a number of years to address specific capital projects. We believe that discretion over surplus funds should remain with boards of education.

Student Choice and Board Flexibility

Boards of Education have the responsibility to offer programs in their district that are relevant to their student's needs. As a result, it is appropriate to provide boards with as much flexibility as possible. This would lean towards fewer special purpose funds and greater latitude for the use of operating funds.

This ties very closely to the design of the new BC curriculum, which encourages student choice in their education. Beyond funding, a significant obstacle to obtaining greater student choice is the nature of the restrictions in the teacher collective agreement. 

Our Board is hopeful that some of the restrictions can be addressed in the next round of bargaining, with the realization that  that there will be a cost to the Ministry if any significant changes are to be accomplished. As a result, we don not have any recommendations for changes to the funding formula to address student choice.

You can review the full document from School District 52 here.

The provincial government started its review of the K-12 Public education funding model back in October of last year, appointing the panel of Kindergarten to Grade Twelve sector representatives and Independent experts who will review information such as that provided by SD 52.

The review panel will then provide for further consultations with stakeholders as they work towards delivering a new funding model, hoping to have it in place in time for the 2019/2020 school year.

You can learn more about the Review panel here, the terms of reference related to their work can be examined from this document.

The timeline for the Review process looks as follow:

Timeline for the Provincial Review into funding for Public Education in BC
(click to enlarge)

Many of the concerns and recommendations from School District 52 have made for themes from past School District meetings and Budget presentation work.

You can review the work of SD52 from our archive page here.

More items of interest related to the Provincial government can be reviewed from our archive page, with a wider overview of British Columbia issues available on our political portal D'Arcy McGee.

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