B.C. school districts ordered to return all strike savings
Memo from Ministry of Education says all savings from wages and other costs will be reclaimed
The B.C. government is instructing school districts to return any money they may have saved during the public school teachers' strike this September.
School districts contacted by CBC News say they're still figuring out the financial impact of the government's demand, which represents a change in direction for the Education Ministry.
During the first two weeks of the strike in June, it allowed districts to keep 20 per cent of money saved from the strike.
But during the summer, the province promised to pay parents $40 for any further days of school missed by children under age 13.
The province estimated the cost of that program would be about $12 million a day, roughly equal to the cost of keeping schools open each day.
Based on these figures, the 13 strike days in September will cost the government about $156 million in payments to parents, when the cheques are eventually issued.
In the memo obtained by CBC News that was sent to every school district earlier this month, assistant deputy minister Deborah Fayad says the ministry will reclaim all strike savings for September.
The list of savings districts are expected to report include:
- Teacher wages
- Teacher wage sensitive benefits
- Teacher non-wage sensitive benefits
- Staff replacement costs
- Utility and other facility costs
- Professional development
The ministry is also asking school districts to report any cost increases due to the strike.
"Also, you will be asked to provide details of incremental strike costs experienced during the month in areas such as international student programs, dues and fees, rentals and leases, and First Nations/LEA reductions."
The memo does say the ministry will work with districts experiencing particular financial difficulty.
"If school districts are experiencing particular financial difficulty as a result of the job action and strike recoveries, the Ministry will work with districts on a case-by-case basis to recognize any reasonable incremental costs, factoring in the district’s financial situation," says Fayad in the letter.
The memo, which was written Sept 12 before the strike ended, also thanks district officials for the "extra effort, and understanding during this uncertain time."
With files from Chris Walker and Steve Lus