Recent belt-tightening by school districts across the province has resulted in $25 million in administrative savings, and now each board of education will get a share of the pie.
Education Minister Mike Bernier made the announcement on Tuesday morning at Surrey’s Holly Elementary School, where he said the Surrey School District will get $3.12 million.
The Delta School District will receive $690,188 in returned savings.
“I want to start by thanking the school districts for all the hard work they’ve done, in districts right across the province of B.C.,” Bernier said.
The minister added that trustees in each district will decide how to allocate the funds.
“From busing, new teachers, new school programs, even keeping a school open, it will allow school districts to make those decisions,” he said.
For Surrey Board of Education Budget Committee Chair Terry Allen, learning that the administrative savings will be returned to the district was welcome news.
According to Allen, the money could be used to enhance programs, upgrade outdated computers and iPads for the students, and pay for more special education assistants and teachers.
“The truth of the matter is, we were facing a deficit of $4 million. This is money that we wouldn’t have had,” said Allen. “No matter what people say, that it’s our own money coming back, we had already budgeted that out of the budget.”
The money will allow the Surrey board to revisit the list of needed school enhancements and put some of those enhancements back on the table.
“It’s a good news story. We can do things (in Surrey schools) that before today, we couldn’t have done,” Allen said.
Still, he acknowledged the district is facing challenges in the bigger picture.
When it comes to B.C.’s funding model for building new schools, Allen believes things need to change.
The current method of the district being unable to apply for capital funding until the students are already in an overcrowded school is “ludicrous,” Allen said.
“What do you say to a parent who chooses Surrey… that they’re across the road from this school, and I have to tell them they can’t come to this school,” he said. “That’s the reality of what the board of education is facing and people need to adjust to that and make the appropriate changes as to how the capital is distributed. The system is broken.”
Last week, Surrey city and school district officials said they will craft their own school construction plan and present it to the province.
– with files from Martin van den Hemel