Maple Ridge school district reinstated $632,000
The provincial government is giving money back to school districts, and Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows are getting enough to restore bus service.
MLA Marc Dalton (Maple Ridge-Mission) urged School District No. 42 to restore busing cuts. He set his alarm for 3 a.m. to call from China in the early morning hours and add his voice to the funding announcement on Tuesday.
The government will restore $25 million in administrative savings to districts. The amount locally will be $632,000, for one year.
The board recently decided to eliminate regular school bus service for 370 students, starting in September.
That alone saved approximately $650,000.
“We are really hoping that the board will use this toward restoring school bus service,” said Dalton.
He has met with Education Minister Mike Bernier several times about the issue, after being contacted by upset parents from Maple Ridge. Although the ministry cannot compel the district to spend the funding on busing, the MLA is “hoping and anticipating” that will happen.
School board chair Mike Murray would not commit on Tuesday to restored busing before a conversation with trustees.
“This does give us the latitude to revisit some decisions,” said Murray.
“I appreciate Marc’s advice, but the board has decisions to make.”
Paula Blamey, one of the parents who led a campaign to keep school busses running in the district, was “really excited and happy” to learn about the restored funding.
“I can’t imagine there’s anything that’s more of a priority,” she said. “I’m thrilled for the opportunity, and for the parents who are right now terrified they will have no way to get their kids to and from school.”
She said parents could be asked for more funding beyond the $215 per year they contribute for bussing at the present time, if there is still a shortfall.
“Without a doubt, parents would be willing to contribute more to keep the busing platform.”
Courtney Cardy, a parent who has been looking for a legal argument to compel the board to keep bus service, fears the board could still use future deficit projections as an excuse not to restore bus service.
“I’m really, really hoping for the best,” she said.
B.C. Teachers’ Federation president Jim Iker said public pressure has gotten results.
“Public advocacy clearly works,” said Iker. “The return of this $25 million cut is an important turning point for public education as it shows the government is feeling the pressure one year out from a provincial election. While the returned funding will not solve the funding crisis facing our schools, it will bring some much needed relief. Parents, students, teachers, and trustees need to keep the pressure up.”
The government forced boards to cut $29 million in 2015 as administrative savings, and a further $25 million in 2016. Tuesday’s announcement reverses the 2015 cuts.
“Our government is committed to ensuring that maximum education dollars go into services for students,” Bernier said in a press release. “Districts worked hard to reduce their administrative costs and we are pleased to be able to direct that $25 million back to programs and initiatives that will directly benefit the kids of B.C.
“Districts made real efforts to reduce spending on their administration costs - and those efforts have made it possible to help flow those resources into classrooms and services for students.”
The amount of money being left with districts is equal to the Year 2 of administrative savings districts were asked to find, said the ministry announcement.
“We are giving districts the ability to invest in their individual priorities,” Bernier added. “This provides a great opportunity for each district to spend the money in a way that will best meet the needs of the students of that district.”