Funding for K-12 education is insufficient – ​​Vancouver Island Free Daily

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The Saanich School District and many school districts in British Columbia are in the very difficult position of having to cut student and family services because inflationary pressures are not being funded by the province. Unfunded inflationary pressure effectively reduces program funding for the 2022/23 school year by approximately $1.2 million in the Saanich School District (1.4% of the 2022/23 operating budget).

These inflationary pressures include increases in Canada Pension Plan contribution rates, increases in medical and dental insurance premiums, and recent changes to the Employment Standards Act increasing the annual cost of sickness and accident of approximately $400,000. Budgeted inflationary pressures also include the inevitable increase in the costs of services and supply budgets (utilities, fuel, software licenses, etc.), but this does not reflect a broader decrease in the purchasing power of budgets. services and supplies that compromises the district’s ability to maintain facilities, renew technology and learning resources, and fund necessary equipment and supplies.

A contributing factor to increasing the budget pressure experienced by Saanich and many other school districts is that the funding formula in British Columbia is being leveraged disproportionately to enrollment trends. As enrollment increases, funding typically grows faster than enrollment-based program costs, and growing school districts are often able to fund inflationary pressures using this growth in funding. However, when enrollment declines, funding actually declines faster than enrollment-based program costs, resulting in budget pressure.

And because core inflationary costs are unfunded, even a school district with stable enrollment like Saanich is under budget pressure that can only be addressed through program cuts. In May 2021 and again in February 2022, the Saanich Board of Education wrote to the Minister of Education urging the department to address these issues with the K-12 funding model that effectively penalizes school districts that do not develop.

Historically, when budget cuts have been necessary, cuts have first been made in administration and operations wherever possible. In fact, in 2015-16 and 2016-17, school districts were mandated by the province to achieve administrative cost savings of $54 million (Saanich’s share was $700,000). In response to this mandate, the BC Association of School Business Officials released a study finding that, for the 2013-14 school year, BC school districts were already spending 30% less on district administration than FTE student compared to other provinces. .

It is not possible for school districts to fund inflationary pressure through further administrative cuts and continue to meet basic administrative requirements, including human resource management, facility maintenance, maintaining processes and necessary financial controls and risk management such as those related to health and safety, data protection (cybersecurity) and regulatory compliance. Therefore, when funding does not keep pace with inflation, there are no good options for school boards that must find cuts to balance their books.

Tim Dunford, Chairman of the Board

Saanich School Board

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