Big Turn Out for Education Meeting in McBride
McBride, B.C. – “I think we made a bit of progress.”
The words of Karen Dube, president of the McBride Secondary School Parent Advisory Council, in response to last Thursday’s community information meeting held in McBride.
The meeting was organized by School District 57 to respond to questions from parents and community members regarding how their tax dollars are being funnelled back into the public education system.
It was also held to address other concerns including education funding and distance learning. Four trustees, a plethora of senior staff with the school district and MLA Shirley Bond attended.
“We heard that the provincial government recognizes that rural schools need to be funded with a different formula and MLA Bond assured everyone in the audience that that was under review and that she felt no matter who forms government that it’s not a partisan issue,” says Dube.
“And that every party recognizes that it is important to look at rural schools differently and maybe rejig the formula.”
Dube added that up until now the Province has funded education on a per student basis which in rural communities is a real concern considering declining enrolment (for example there are now roughly 150 combined students at McBride’s elementary and high schools and that number is expected to decline even further next school year).
“If that continues we won’t have the money to hire as many teachers as we need to run the programs. We need to have enough teachers in front of students to ensure they get the courses they need to graduate.”
She says there’s also a good understanding among parents that most of their education tax dollars are going towards teacher and staff salaries – something most people want to see continue.
“They want to see it go to teachers in front of kids and it’s happening. About 84 per cent of the high school budget here goes to pay for staff – teachers and support staff and principals.”
Dube admits the elephant in the room was the uncertainty coming out of the provincial election earlier this month.
“And I know that they delayed the final report on rural education (the so called ‘White Paper’) until September so we’re in a bit of a holding pattern,” she says. “The Board assured us they wouldn’t move forward with any co-location (merging the two schools in the community) until after that report is in and the Province has made some decisions around funding changes.”
Tim Bennett, chair of the Prince George School Board, was pleased with the turnout (around 70 people) and that the district had the chance to address community concerns.
But he also agreed things will remain uncertain until we know what the provincial government is going to look like though he is hopeful.
“All parties committed to reviewing funding formulas and supporting rural education so we’re now waiting on the White Paper, we’re also waiting to see what happens in terms of rural funding and rural support for our schools,” he says.
“So, the District is committed to supporting our schools and moving forward and waiting to see what comes from government.”