At its public Board meeting last week, the School District 5 (SD5) Board of Education voted unanimously to write another letter to the Minister of Finance, Michael De Jong, requesting a progress update on the 2014 Report on the Budget recommendations for kindergarten through grade 12 (K – 12, as well as a request for progress on their 2015 and 2016 reports.
This annual report is put forward by an all-party committee (The Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services) following province-wide public consultations on the provincial budget in accordance with the Budget Transparency and Accountability Act.
“At SD5 we feel that the Committee’s reports have accurately reflected the needs of K -12 public education and its level of public priority”, says SD5 Board Chair, Frank Lento. “This is why the Board would like to know what, if anything, has come of the Committee’s recommendations since 2014.”
According to Lento, previous Reports on the Budget have recommended government provide stable, sustainable and adequate funding, including capital funding. This year the Committee also recommended government review their current public education funding formula.
“Since October 2014 we’ve written three letters to the Minister of Finance asking for updates on what government has done – or plans to do with these recommendations– but to date our Board hasn’t received even a cursory reply. Last week we voted to send a fourth letter,” said Lento. “I have to say that it’s disappointing –disrespectful in fact—when the elected representatives for education in the East Kootenay can’t get a response to our concerns.”
Lento adds that these recommendations are too important to ignore. For this reason, the Board’s January 2016 letter has been addressed to Premier Christy Clark and Minister of Education Mike Bernier in addition to Minister of Finance, Michael De Jong.
“The provincial government’s own reports show –bang on, in my opinion—that funding for public K – 12 education should be a public spending priority, and that investment in this sector can increase achievement of economic and community goals. Ignoring these recommendations appears to be short-changing the economic potential of our students and that has to be fixed.”
Another issue that arose at the board meeting involved drafting school calendars to map out the next three years for teaching staff, to which will be available for public feedback from parents and the union.
The calendars feature the summer, christmas and spring breaks, along with professional development days and administrative days.
Board chair Frank Lento says the calendar will be distributed to teachers, parents and the union, among other stakeholders, for feedback before finalizing it.
“In the past, we go through an exercise—the ministry prescribes so many minutes, it’s all regulated by the ministry, so we do it yearly and it involves a lot of stakeholders,” he said. “Some of them directly impacted, such as the teachers, so they like to have some input and we do that.”
The calendar is part of a ministry-regulated requirement that needs to be done annually to ensure that teachers spend a certain amount of minutes per year in the classroom.
“The process is good, but it’s lengthly, given the modified calendar that we have with the modified four-day weeks, so it’s an attempt to do it over three years, so we’re looking at it now,” added Lento.
The draft calendars are available on the SD5 website at www.sd5.bc.ca.