Teachers strike has $975,410 silver lining

Money budgeted for school principals and administrators’ programs was not entirely spent

Job action by Campbell River teachers last school year saved School District 72 several thousand dollars.

The district reports a $975,410 surplus, or 1.7 per cent of its annual budget, thanks to wage and program savings as a result of the BC Teachers’ Union’s job action.

“There were a bunch of savings, we had some increased revenues from our leases and interests and we had some savings due to the teachers’ strike,” said Kevin Patrick, secretary-treasurer for School District 72. “We saved on wages from not having to pay the teachers.”

During the three-day teacher walkout in March, the provincial government took 80 per cent of the money saved in teacher salaries while School District 72 saved $400,000. Education Minister George Abbott said the teachers’ strike saved the government $11 million each day.

The walkout, during which teachers put up informational ‘stick it’ lines, came to a halt after the government enacted Bill 22 which forced teachers back to work and imposed a government-appointed mediator to try and settle the contract dispute between the teachers’ union and the provincial government.

Patrick said the most significant factor in the surplus was the fact money budgeted for school principals and administrators’ programs was not entirely spent because their time was focused on providing services teachers refused to perform as part of their job action.

For much of the first half of the school year teachers refrained from supervising students during lunch and recess and in April, withdrew participation in extracurricular activities – duties that principals and district employees took on.

“I think the bigger savings came from the inability to spend at the district level,” Patrick said. “A lot of time was spent on the job action. It had a big impact overall on spending.

“No one program was incredibly under spent, it was little bits from everything. There are certainly district programs that were (under spent).”

The Board of Education voted at its meeting Sept. 25 to allocate the savings to an unrestricted reserve, similar to a savings account, to be available for future years.