SURREY – Trustees and parents of the province’s largest school district are calling on the provincial government to step up their funding commitments to education.
As part of the province’s annual consultation period through its Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services, residents and organizations are able to send the government feedback prior to the writing of the 2015-16 budget.
In a release, the Surrey Board of Education says the underfunding of education is leading to direct cuts to services that support children’s learning and that "the government’s commitment to fiscal discipline cannot come at the expense of children’s futures."
Board chair Shawn Wilson said there are currently 6,000 students in 280 portables and that number has increased 41 per cent from 2003 to 2014, costing an estimated $4.2 million per year. Wilson noted that if adequate funding were in place, the district could have hired 50 more teachers with the same funds.
"These teaching positions could be of extraordinary help in dealing with class size and composition," he said.
Other risings expenses left to the district include energy costs and employee benefits, both of which the board say are not covered in the province’s funding increases.
"If boards of education are to be successful in their goals, they must be able to rely on adequate and sustainable funding," Wilson said. "We know that an investment now will ensure a bright future for our children."
Bob Holmes, on leave from the Surrey District Parent Advisory Council while he runs for trustee, also submitted a letter to the province expressing similar concern. While Surrey’s rapid growth should work in the district’s favour when it comes to funding, Holmes says the slow movement of funds instead works to the detriment of the district.
"Since we are looking at four to five years from a funding announcement to kids being in a school, the recent news that the province has asked districts not to submit capital funding plans this year is nothing short of appalling," he wrote. "It’s not fair to our parents to put them in a position where they feel like they need to constantly raise funds to ensure their children’s classrooms have everything they need. But most importantly, it’s not fair to our children, and all the children of this province, to give them less and less support every year."