The B.C. government is redirecting $25 million in administrative savings back into school districts across the province, with School District 5 receiving $277,000.
The funding, taken from a provincial edict to all school districts to find administrative savings, will likely be held in reserve until September, said Rob Norum, the secretary-treasurer of the Southeast Kootenay school district.
“It might be better for us to wait until September,” said Norum. “Put it in reserve and wait for September to see what we’re dealing with in our schools and make sure that money goes to where we really need it, rather than doing something with it now and finding out that we really didn’t need to do that.”
Norum says the work for the next 2016/17 SD5 budget has been completed and passed first reading by the board of education, so putting the funding in reserve and waiting till September would be the best course of action, as education funding is determined on a per-student basis.
“It’s a bit tricky, but it’s always nice for us to do our student assessment and student count in September, early October and find out where things are at then use the money that way,” Norum added.
According to a press release from the provincial government, school districts can use the funding as they see fit, such as for classroom programs, hiring new teachers or for bussing.
“School District 5 has worked very hard to find administrative cost savings and now we can put those savings into services for students,” Kootenay East MLA Bill Bennett said. “We have made a commitment to ensure that services and amenities for students receive the lion’s share of our province’s education funding.
“Front line services to students can really benefit from this relief – providing supports for classroom and front-line instruction,” Bennett added.
Though it is a one-time infusion funding, Norum says anything helps.
“Our budget is $54 million—so $277,000 is not a big number,” he says, “but it is $277,000 and it does give us an opportunity to maybe take care of any hotspots we have in terms of school needs or classroom needs that weren’t necessarily funded for or we don’t necessarily have a budget for coming for September.”
Shelley Balfour, the president of the Cranbrook and District Teachers’ Association, said the funding is money that the government shouldn’t have taken from school districts–in the form of administrative savings—in the first place.
“The target of these cuts was ‘administrative savings,’ but the result has been more school closures, fewer education assistants, cuts to specialist teachers, and reduced school bus service,” Balfour said. “It is not money being returned to the districts—the government is simply cancelling that clawback from last year.”