Campbell River school board defies minister’s edict

School District 72 will not be submitting a savings plan to help pay salaries

School District 72 will not come up with savings to fund wage increases for staff and teachers in schools, as was requested by the Education Minister.

Michele Babchuk, chair of the Board of Education, said School District 72 will not be submitting a savings plan to help pay salaries.

“This letter will act as official notice that after careful examination of our finances and given the constraints inherent in the principles of the Cooperative Gains Mandate, we are submitting a zero savings plan,” Babchuk wrote in a letter to Education Minister Don McRae  on Jan. 15.

McRae had asked all school districts across the province to come up with a 1.5 per cent savings in district operations and to submit the savings plan by January 15.

He also requested that the savings not have an impact on educational programs.

Babchuk said that would be impossible.

“We will find it very difficult and unreasonable to provide a savings plan that will not impact students today or in the future,” Babchuk said in December following McRae’s request. She added the board had “grave concerns in the expectation that Boards of Education and school districts find such significant savings without effect (on) programs and services.

“Of significant concern is the government’s apparent belief that we have the ability to free up funding from existing budgets to provide for compensation increases without negatively impacting the delivery of educational programming for students, transfer costs or reducing service levels to the public,” Babchuk said.

Under the government’s Cooperative Gains Mandate, school districts are being asked to come up with ways to fund wage increases locally through budget savings. The savings are intended to free up funding for compensation increases in this round of collective bargaining with support staff in schools through kindergarten to Grade 12.

Babchuk said while School District 72’s Board of Education is in favour of fair pay, it’s difficult to come up with the money locally to fund those wages.

“Undoubtedly, as a Board of Education, we support a fair wage settlement for all of our employee groups,” Babchuk said. “As we consider a Cooperative Gains savings plan for support staff, we need to identify if we will be required to find additional savings plans to support increases for teachers and excluded staff.

“We find it increasingly frustrating that we are being asked to bargain provincially, and yet locally fund any settlements.”