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School board chairs need to stand up to province
It will be very interesting to observe the reaction, if any, from our local representatives to the B.C. Liberals’ so-called “Co-operative Gains” scheme in the education sector. It seems the Liberals’ idea is to allow a meager wage increase to staff (1.5 per cent in the first year) along with a cast iron rule that the cost be made up by “savings” elsewhere in the education budget. For different reasons, this will please no one.
Schools are a service industry, so the vast majority of their budget is taken up by wages. This means that any “savings” can only made by even more punishing cuts to education services. For students, this could mean older textbooks, more libraries closed, larger classes, deteriorating buildings, fewer course choices, or most likely all of the above.
Budget shortfalls, of course, are old news. They have been the dreary reality of public education under the Liberals. What is new is the open resistance now coming from many elected school boards. Right wing or left wing, it is they who are faced with the grisly annual ritual of choosing where to cut next. Across the province are signs that enough may finally be enough.
The Delta and Surrey school boards have historically taken a very timid approach to standing up to the provincial government, leaving the heavy lifting to others. But their policy of appeasement has scarcely benefitted the students. Both boards now have new chairs, and supported by the new climate of resistance, they may finally grow some intestines and realize they were elected for a reason.