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May 13, 2014

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Students to pay for government failure to keep pace with rising costs

BURNABY – CUPE says that years of downloading major costs to school boards without providing funding to cover them is taking a toll on K-12 education in B.C. 

“Downloading costs onto school districts is now hurting students,” said CUPE BC President Mark Hancock. “Premier Clark campaigned on a ‘families first’ platform in the last election but her definition of family must not include students, as she’s continuing Gordon Campbell’s policy of deliberately underfunding education.”

School districts across the province have been cutting staff and programs to balance budgets. The total reported budget shortfall across B.C. is over $70 million.

“We’ve been talking about this structural shortfall of funding for K-12 education for years,” said Hancock. “Cutting staff means less support and services for students, who should not be paying for government underfunding.”

Examples of unfunded costs include:

•   B.C.’s inflation rate increased more than 3.4% in total from 2011 to 2013. Funding would have needed to increase $22 million just to cover increases in the cost of supplies and services over this period, but this funding never materialized.           

•   The MSP premium increase of 4% in Budget 2014 is on top of a 4.1% increase that went into effect on January 1. This will cost school districts close to $3 million each year.

•   BC Hydro rates increased by 9% as of April 2014 and with further annual rate increases will see a compounded interest rate of 28% over the next five years, yet no funding has been allocated to school districts to cover these costs.

•   Provincial Learning Network: The Ministry of Education estimates the cost of the upgrade for 2014–15 at $7.1 million for start-up costs and $4.7 million for service costs. No commitment has been made for new funding to cover these costs.

School District 68, Nanaimo-Ladysmith is poised to eliminate 16 education support workers and 12 teaching staff. In Maple Ridge/Pitt Meadows, School District 42 has cut teachers and 14 education support workers, and students who ride buses within their own catchments will have to pay a $215 annual fee.  The Coquitlam board indicated that it’s likely that dozens of teachers and many support workers will lose their jobs in September because of budget shortfalls. And in New Westminster, an unprecedented array of cuts will devastate services to students.

“It’s well past time for this government to put students first, and to step up and properly fund education,” said Hancock.


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