British Columbia

VSB budget cuts would eliminate 200 jobs, increase class sizes

Faced with a budget shortfall of $27.26 million, the VSB has released a proposal that would see a swath of cuts to educational progams.

Under the proposal secondary school class sizes would no longer be capped at 30 students

Caps on secondary school class sizes in Vancouver will be eliminated under the VSB's balanced budget proposal. (iStock)

Faced with a budget shortfall of $27.26 million for the 2016/17 school year, the Vancouver School Board has released a proposal that would see a wholesale round of cuts to special educational progams, the elimination of the elementary band and strings program, and the loss of coordinating and support positions across the entire school system.

"Our world class education system is at risk due to chronic under-funding, downloading and broken commitments from the Ministry of Education," VSB chair Mike Lombardi said Thursday. 

After more than a decade of underfunding, downloading, shortfalls, layoffs and program and service cuts the VSB is facing its largest-ever shortfall."

Forced by law to present a balanced budget, the VSB's initial proposal would see more than 200 jobs lost, and services to some of the most vulnerable children in the city's schools pared back or completely eliminated.

If the proposal stands, classrooms in secondary schools would no longer be limited to 30 students — a move that would see 33 secondary teaching positions cut.

Several positions that coordinate district-wide sports and arts events would be eliminated, leaving individual schools to pick up the extra work. District technology support — which offers teachers looking to bring more technology into their classroom help and mentorship — would also be eliminated, as would similar positions supporting teacher librarians, gifted teachers, resources teachers and student support workers (SSWs).

Staffing for SSWs — who provide in classroom special needs support — would be reduced by 12 positions (from a base of 670).

The report also proposes to cut all 12 positions that provide intensive, small group literacy interventions to vulnerable students across the district's inner city schools.

Options to raise money include charging staff $20 per month to park on school property and enrolling an additional 100 international students for the next school year.

Budget not designed to whip up parents, chair says

In an interview with On The Coast host Stephen Quinn, Lombardi railed against when he said were $3.1 million in downloaded costs from the province, including increased hydro fees, MSP premiums, the costs of new collective bargaining agreements the province reached with school district staff.

"What they do is they increase the per-pupil amount [of funding] but it doesn't cover the costs they download to us," he said.

He also accused the province on reneging on a deal to provide Wi-Fi in schools; he said the schools paid to have the Wi-Fi upgrades installed and the province refused to reimburse them, contrary to an agreement.

He denied that the proposed cuts to things like the string and band program were political or designed to whip up parent support.

"Our staff, our secretary treasurer and our superintendent told us after making $80 million worth of cuts in the last decade it's not possible to find anymore cuts that don't impact the classrooms," he said.

Several public consultation events are scheduled through April, with final budget approval set for April 28.

With files from On The Coast

To hear the full interview with VSB chair Mike Lombardi, click the audio labelled: VSB proposes to cut staffing for arts, special needs, gifted programs and more


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