Significant school cuts still likely in Victoria despite $1.2-billion cash injection

Significant school cuts still likely in Victoria despite $1.2-billion cash injection
CHEK

Students, parents and teachers have been protesting to try and stop school cuts to music and other programs as the Greater Victoria School District faces a $7-million budget deficit.

“First of all, why are we cutting this now in the middle of a pandemic?” asks concerned parent Karin Kwan. “And is this the legacy we want our pandemic to leave in our school district?”

But stakeholders became hopeful after the province announced a $1.2-billion cash injection for B.C. schools during Tuesday’s budget — with most of the money going to support increased wages and growing enrollment.

“It will make a difference,” says Greater Victoria Teachers’ Association president Winona Waldron. “Any piece of that that gets restored in the budget will have a positive impact on our staffing and students.”

Many believed it would reduce the number of significant cuts in cash-strapped districts like Victoria, where educational assistants, early literacy, gifted programs, meal programs and other areas are also on the chopping block.

But the chair of the School District 61 board doesn’t think the extra money will make much of a difference to the bottom line.

“While we won’t know for sure until numbers roll out to school districts, it’s looking like we’re not going to be seeing increases that would make a big difference against our budget deficit,” Jordan Watters said.

Watters said it’s because the province isn’t accounting for inflationary pressures. A static operating budget essentially means a decrease in funding from last year.

“We are still looking at a deficit and we’re still preparing to have those challenging conversations with our community,” said Watters.

Concerned parents just hope entire budget lines — like some music programs — won’t be cut.

“We need the board to take a better look at some of the administrative costs that they’ve got going on as well as making the cuts kind of equally across the board,” Kwan says.

A final budget decision will be made May 17.

Tess van StraatenTess van Straaten

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