“The cupboard is now bare, except for the Arm and Hammer box of baking soda.”
Those were the words of Delta Board of Education chair Dale Saip the day after Delta’s school trustees voted April 26 to dip further into the district’s reserves when adopting the budget for the coming school year.
Saip said trustees decided to almost double the $695,000 they had initially intended to use from the district’s reserve fund. In total, Delta has decided to use approximately $1.2 million to help address a funding shortfall estimated to run $3.49 million.
Saip said the move is to address what he termed as “systemic underfunding of B.C.’s education system.”
In the three previous years, Delta has had to trim its budget by $10.9 million. Much of that has been brought on by continued drops in school enrollment figures, something that forced the closure of two South Delta elementary schools two years ago.
Increasing the amount of reserve funds will preserve five to six jobs, Saip said, and will be spread out over support and teaching staff in the special needs area.
Previously, in order to balance the books, the district had proposed cutting 12 teaching positions and close to seven support staff.
“The problem is with how education dollars are allocated,” Saip said, adding he is calling on the district and its partner groups—parent associations, the teaching association and support staff union—to join forces and present a united front to compel the provincial government to loosen the purse strings a little.
Paul Steer, president of the Delta Teachers’ Association, said the chromic underfunding of B.C.’s classrooms is something that must be addressed if a quality education system is to be maintained, despite declining enrollment.
Steer said he likened the situation to a car pooling arrangement with four participants.
“If one of those four people drop out, the cost of traveling to and from work still remains but has to be shared by the three people now left in the car,” he said.
Steer added Delta’s trustees have have been as responsive to the financial crunch as they can be, given the scope of their influence in the system. He said the real impasse comes with getting the province to stop the “chronic underfunding of education” in B.C.