At the most recent public meeting of the School District 72 Board of Education, the topic was once again raised about how the provincial government doesn’t seem to understand what “predictable funding” means – so the board has decided to try to do their part to fix that.
Education Minister Mike Bernier had been in town the week before to announce the seismic upgrading of Cortes Elementary Junior Secondary and while he was here, the board got a chance to sit down with him to discuss other matters, as well. One of these matters was their concern surrounding what they have been saying for years about ongoing funding issues both within this district and across the province.
“I appreciated the opportunity to talk to the minister about the need for predictable and sustainable funding, although, by his own admission, he didn’t understand what that meant,” said trustee Richard Franklin.
The board went on at last week’s meeting to discuss two letters that are currently in the drafting stage, both of which are to be addressed to the minister – and both of which are in regards to different funding issues.
One of these letters is in regards to properly funding and implementing student support structures, including those that will help to address student mental health issues.
“I think there’s big elephant in the room in terms of education and mental health issues,” said trustee Joyce McMann, “and we really need to encourage the minister of education to look at that closely – to see that more and more, teachers at the front line are being called on to exercise skill in social work, in mental health work, in such a variety of expertise in children’s well-being. We’re becoming more and more aware of the long-term effects of trauma and how traditional methods of so-called ‘guidance and discipline’ have exacerbated many of those,” she said, adding that teachers “can’t be expected to come out of university having the skills required,” to fill the demanding roles they’re being asked to fill.
“I think we need to have a very extensive conversation on how in 2017 and onward we’re going to be able to cope with the extreme diversity of needs in terms of the well-being of students.”
The other letter that was discussed has been in drafting stages for “quite a while,” according to chair Susan Wilson, “and, basically, the intention is to show our appreciation for some of the funding goodies that have come our way in the past few months.”
The drafting of that letter had stalled as trustees discussed the need to include specific concerns they have about the funding model, in general, rather than being simply a “thank you” letter to the ministry for the funding they’ve been getting.
It was in discussing that second letter that the board decided they also needed to draft a third.
Trustee John Kerr suggested that the board write a letter to the BC School Trustees’ Association (BCSTA) to encourage them to come up with a definition of “what stable, predictable and adequate funding is, so that we’ll have a model for that that phrase throughout the province,” Kerr said, adding that if all school districts had the same definition of what that means, “it would be a lot easier to communicate with the minister.”
“I think that’s a great suggestion, because I think consistency was the point he was trying to make in his defence of not having stable, predictable funding. He says the whole notion is hard to capture because everyone thinks differently, so if we create a model that [all districts can] live with, it sort of pulls the rug out from under the minister’s stance.”
And so that letter, too, will be drafted and sent to Teresa Rezansoff, president of the BCSTA, in hopes of creating that one, province-wide definition all districts can live by – and sending it along to the provincial government.