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October 28, 2017 12:28 am

Another nail in the rural coffin

Monday, February 1, 2016 @ 3:45 AM

By Bill Phillips

Every day, for all 12 years of my schooling, I rode the school bus.

Yes I was a rural kid. Still am. So perhaps I’m a little jaded when talk turns to yet another attack on the rural Canada we all so seemingly want to idolize, adore, and aspire to emulate.

The School District 57 board of education is looking at possibly charging families whose kids ride school buses $100 per child, up to a maximum of $300.

It’s a little crazy, coming from board members who like to espouse that they are a rural board (of course they have summarily dismissed the notion of electing representatives from the rural areas of the district, but that’s another story). In fairness, none of the board members like the idea. However, rather than dismiss the notion outright, which they could have done, they referred it to committee.

That pretty much means that bus kids will be paying come September.

This is wrong on so many levels, I hardly know where to begin.

I don’t support charging fee for busing, but if the district goes ahead there should, at the very least, be some sort of means test that provides exemptions for families for whom $300 poses a read hardship.

Then there’s the whole situation, which isn’t a rural one, where students live within walking distance of a school but are told they have to attend one across town and are bused there.

Once again, I don’t support charging a fee for busing, but if the district goes ahead, students within walking distance of an operating school, should have the ability to attend that school.

But that isn’t the society we built. Our society is built on the idea that, collectively, we can provide services that we can’t individually. We pay taxes so our governments can provide those services.

The other, larger problem for the school district, is that school boards have become great scapegoats for provincial decisions. There is talk that the Liberal government might do away with school boards. Why would they? The provincial government pulls all the economic levers, determines budgets, and makes all the cuts, while the local school board has to deliver the bad news to the community and face the ire of angry parents. Great set up for Victoria, not so good for school boards.

There is one option, however, that I don’t think any school board has taken. School boards do have the ability to go to referendum to raise local funds. Maybe it’s time. Victoria certainly isn’t going to make it any easier on school districts, especially rural ones.

Bill Phillips is a freelance columnist living in Prince George. He was the winner of the 2009 Best Editorial award at the British Columbia/Yukon Community Newspaper Association’s Ma Murray awards, in 2007 he won the association’s Best Columnist award. In 2004, he placed third in the Canadian Community Newspaper best columnist category and, in 2003, placed second. He can be reached at billphillips1@mac.com


Growing up in the country myself I rode the bus for 12 years with all the stops and a transfer in between it was usually an hour and a half drive one way to school it was an essential service for us and I do remember in 1986 there was quite the uproar as the school district (school district 57) of the time was considering charging $80 per month per child to bus them to school. However that didn’t fly at the time as it would only apply to students not bussed to schools in PG and would’ve crests a two tier system and there was a lot of backlash from the rural school areas.

Back then there was a heavy presence of people who lived rural and it was easy to fill a bus with 45 kids now more and more people are abandoning the rural for urban life and I know the route I took as a kid there is 12 kids that ride the bus compared to 35 when I went to school.

The reason for this ramble is I can understand the reason for wanting to charge for riding the bus and it will happen but I personally have no issue with the charging fee as so many districts do it now but in my opinion a $50 fee is more realistic. Many will probably disagree but we are in the here and now not living in the past and there are certain realities like more people living in urban areas And less living rural the reality is less kids are riding the bus and the cost of operating a bus goes up with less riders.

It is devil you do devil you don’t in this case with no real winners

It’s a cash grab by the school district. With fuel prices at half what they were a year ago, it’s just a cash grab by the school district knowing full well that there is no political accountability to setting up barriers to rural students. That’s why the the district rejected the ward system, so they can swamp rural representation with numbers.

For me the other arguments are beside the point. Charging kids to ride the bus violates the fundamental principle of free public education. I would no more charge them a fee to ride the bus than I would charge them a fee to attend math class. It’s wrong. Let’s not go there.

Being I grew up in Penny and when to Penny Elm. I also worked for SD#57 for 15 years then UNBC and now CNC and an instructor. Up until about a year ago I lived in Willow River and support the schools there being very involved in the community and area for almost 11 years. One never knows where the next “Genius” eg. Einstein’s are coming from. To be denied a proper education rural or in the middle of the inner city schools is wrong (not all folks will have this money). All students should be given the same and equal opportunity. Not all folks like Christy Clark can afford to send their children to a private school.
Now Saying all this, it is clean the biggest changes need to come from the governments funding formula, not enough money is being invested into the next generation of our young people. Say that so much is being spent on other items that do not bare the same immediate level of commitment to our youth of tomorrow. It’s about time we change up how much we are willing and need to put forward in taxes to the education process in this country.

Rural residents hardly pay a dime to use everything the city dweller pays for every year. Your little tax assessment is a joke. People in Beaverly, Blackburn.. they use our city services every single day. They use our roads, our schools, our services… and do not pay for them to any significant degree.

So they are finally asked to cough up a little cash for a bus, to get their kids an education, and they offer a backlash? Start paying, freeloaders.

“they use ….our schools” Hunh? SD57 is not part of the city of Prince George.

Don’t let them get away with this crap. SD#57 made the decision to bus the students now follow through with the commitment. Next thing you know they will want you to pay for luggage. Lets see you have 8 books in your backpack that will be 80 cents and the skates will have to be stored in the tool box so that will be another dollar.

This is a tough one. The board is being put in a ridiculous position by the province. Talk to a bus driver. My friends that drive those buses claim that there are children that they only see 2-3 times a year. But they still have to swing that giant bus down a 3km road, just to check if a kid they haven’t met is waiting. That is where the waste is, and maybe that’s what should be looked at. Maybe the parents who sign the kids up for bus service should pay if they are only using it for that odd day they don’t feel like driving the kids into school?

I have no children in the school system anymore. I pay school taxes, where is that going? I would hope that busing kids to and from school should be at least part of it???

Wow, Leroyjenkins, you really, really need to do research before you type.

“Rural residents hardly pay a dime to use everything the city dweller pays for every year. Your little tax assessment is a joke. People in Beaverly, Blackburn.. they use our city services every single day. They use our roads, our schools, our services… and do not pay for them to any significant degree.

So they are finally asked to cough up a little cash for a bus, to get their kids an education, and they offer a backlash? Start paying, freeloaders.”

Blackburn is part of the City Of PG. RDFFG collects our taxes and don’t think for a second that money doesn’t go into the city. 3 City Councillors sit on the RD Board. YES we pay lower taxes….we don’t have a water system to call the city if sh*t goes south, quite the same with our septic…the sh*t flows, if it stops, its on me. ROADS…well, do you like to get outside of the city and enjoy the great outdoors our areas offer around PG? If you do, well if we all move to the city, say goodbye to the roads to get where you want to go, as well The city of PG does not do rural roads (I could go on about roads but I am stopping here). My house, my property, is not worth 1/4 what a city house is worth and it is 5 times the size (the property not the house). So if I decide to sell. I am not making anything. I said in the last article about this, I don’t mind paying a little bit. But how dare you call us free loaders. Have you ever lived rurally? Do you realize, that SD57 gets a nice lil chunk of money for rural schools that they can choose what to do with. When our school was under the knife we found out through much research that our school brought the SD more money than the school actually spent. Even the SD saw that it was not worth it to shut this school down for that exact reason (That money goes into whatever school they choose btw, so talk about free loading??)

I pay for school taxes, same as you. They are not YOUR schools. IF SD57 wants to encase a HUGE area and not have rural representation, by all means let us THE RURAL have our own School Board, let us decide where our monies go, and how it is spent. BET YOUR BUTT, we will not be overlapping buses in catchment areas, we will reconsider catchment areas, and actually look at a map. We will not build schools in the middle of nowhere and we will place them in the most cost efficient savings locations. WE will not allow SENIORITY decide where they WANT to go, but what is best for savings.

Your way of thinking is backwards. IN FACT, let us the RURAL BC (NORTHERN BC ALL OF IT) have a separate government. You can bet then, the money flowing south and not coming back north would than stay in the north. Sadly I look at our SD and the City of PG as They look at Victoria. They don’t like being treated so ‘unfairly’, we don’t either. But whatever, I will pay $200 a year for my kids to ride the bus.

For the person that said wasting time going down roads…your friend, the bus driver should use some common sense and connect with the parent, so the parent can call and let them know not to bother today. I live rurally, I know this situation, and our bus drivers, make contact. Parents are respectful to the situation and make the call, or send a text.
My son does not ride the bus in the morning, because I figured out by the time I got home from driving him to the bus stop, it was the same amount of time it takes me to drive him to school…my car is already warm, and I am already dressed and out the door. NOW if they actually came down my road than my kid would get on the bus in the morning (which btw is not 3 km) however for my kid to get to his bus stop, he has two options, walk through a forested area near a river and on a busy log hauling hwy for 1 km or take a trail across railway (That you may not get through in the winter, or at least stuck in the snow- and have a train go by).

I do not have access to all the amenities the city does, I do pay for those amenities, not as much as you. I also don’t use those amenities. I know where our money goes, because I actually pay attention to my “municipal” government. Also, do you like farm fresh food? Yeah? Me too. I like farmers, because without them we have no local food. REAL local. We need to stop pushing people into the cities. We need more farmers.

We in the north pay huge school taxes in comparison to those in the south. Their reasoning? – bus costs. So we already pay for the buses, all of us, even if we have no children.

Leroy you obviously have never seen a rural tax bill . All of those things you mention are on the bill and then some . Like library tax , cemetary tax , arena tax , police tax , hospital tax , fire protection tax , provincial rural tax , regional district tax , municipal finance tax , refuse tax , dump tax , bc assessment tax . And because we live far from the emenities you speak of we pay a hell of a lot more carbon tax etc on our fuel bill . Plus every thing else costs more to be delivered. You gotta get your head out of that bubble you live in .

In a perfect world there would be enough funds to cover the cost of getting children from their home to the classroom. Unfortunately dollars to education are not sufficient.

I personally would like to see the remaining dollars go towards education, not transportation.

We all make choices. I chose to raise my kids in a neighbourhood where they can easily walk to school. Some choose to drive their kids across town. Why should one person have their travel subsidized and not the other?

Perhaps families that drive should get a $300 gas voucher. Maybe my family should receive a $300 voucher towards the wear of my kids shoes.

Mr Leroy Jenkins you have been measured and found wanting

@ just my opinion, I pay school tax on my property and I have no children. Is that fair? I accept it as the system that we have.

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