The Okanagan Skaha School District is planning to let local MLAs know that Premier Christy Clark is wrong about there being any “low-hanging fruit” left in their budget.
On March 9, the board of trustees approved sending a letter to Penticton MLA Dan Ashton and Boundary Similkameen MLA Linda Larson along with the ministers of finance and education, laying out the measures already taken in previous years to cut the local education budget.
The provincial budget included funding to cover collective agreements negotiated with teachers last year, but also directed the 60 school districts in B.C. to slash $29 million this year and $25 million next year from their budgets for administration and related services.
“It’s low-hanging fruit and I know that they’ll be able to find it,” Premier Christy Clark told reporters at a post-budget press conference.
The B.C. School Trustees Association requested each school district meet with their local MLAs to put pressure on the province to increase funding for schools. Chair Linda Van Alphen noted that the board met with the MLAs prior to the BCSTA request and sent much the same message.
“One thing we say often and loudly is that we want fair and predictable funding for the education system,” said Van Alphen. The board decided that a letter showing work already done would be more effective, since they were unlikely to be able to arrange a meeting in the near future.
“We have done all kinds of things to create efficiencies in our district,” said trustee Janet Planiden. “To me we need to get that down and then present that to our MLA, so they are not talking about that you haven’t picked all the, quote, ‘low-hanging fruit.’”
Superintendent Wendy Hyer described it as the province giving with one hand, but taking away with the other.
“We have made cuts every year I was here,” said Hyer. “Over the last years we have eliminated administrative positions, we’ve reduced clerical hours, we’ve reduced custodial hours.
“To suggest that we haven’t cut the low-hanging fruit is an insult.”