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New Westminster school board needs to push for more funding: DPAC

Per-student grants aren't going up, and that leaves B.C. school districts in a tight spot.
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New Westminster's district parent advisory council wants School District 40 trustees to lobby for more funding.

New Westminster parents want the School District 40 board to fight for more provincial funding for schools.

Kathleen Carlsen, chair of the New Westminster district parent advisory council (DPAC), made that pitch to the board Tuesday night (April 26) during the parent group’s annual budget presentation.

“Parents do not want to see us come out of the pandemic in a situation where we have to make cuts to educational programs and services and safety needs in order to balance the budget,” she said.

Carlsen said DPAC wants the board to join it in advocating to the provincial government to provide funding to offset pandemic-related costs and to advocate for new funding – specifically to implement new Indigenous education curriculum and for student mental health.

She said the district needs to continue advocating for an increase in the overall operating grant per student.

The New Westminster school district is anticipating a structural deficit of just over $1 million in its 2022/23 budget.

SD40’s initial base budget projects a B.C. Ministry of Education grant of $70.2 million, up nearly $2.3 million over 2021/22. That difference, however, is due to growing enrolment — with a projected 200 more students in 2022/23 than in the previous year. The base provincial allocation per student, $7,885, remains unchanged.

Carlsen said that amount remains among the lowest per-student funding in Canada, forcing districts to continue to do more with less every year.

B.C. 'far, far behind' on education funding

Trustee Maya Russell said the funding issue is key for the school district and agreed B.C. is still “far, far behind.”

She acknowledged the board will be challenged in its efforts to accommodate all the needs and priorities raised by its stakeholder groups.

“There are difficult decisions, and we can’t do all of these, unfortunately,” she said.

The district is now working on its 2022/23 budget, incorporating feedback from its stakeholder groups — parents, students, teachers, support staff, principals/vice-principals and its Indigenous education team — and the results of a New Westminster community budget survey.

The budget will return to the board table at the May 10 operations committee meeting, when superintendent Karim Hachlaf will present recommendations for the board’s approval.

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