A school board trustee is hoping provincial funding to school districts to support vulnerable students will be distributed more equitably, saying SD42 is losing out on millions of dollars.
Coun. Mike Murray would like to see changes to the provincial CommunityLINK funding program as well as to the way the Equity of Opportunity supplement is calculated – to make the allotment of funding each district receives fairer.
“If you add those numbers up and multiply it by our student population, the difference is in the millions of dollars,” he said.
CommunityLINK is a funding program that supports academic achievement and the social functioning of students in need across the province. Money from this program goes towards school breakfast, lunch, and snack programs, academic supports, counseling, youth workers, and after-school programs.
Murray notes that the current funding model for CommunityLINK is based on funding that was handed out through the program at least a decade before Murray was first elected to the school board in 2011.
He explained that the school districts who implemented the funding that year received a good chunk of money.
“Now that funding has carried on simply historically,” he noted.
For the 2022/23 school year the Maple Ridge Pitt Meadows School District received $593,230 in CommunityLINK funding for about 16,154 students in the district.
In comparison: the Coquitlam School District received $1,599,787 for 32,766 students; Surrey School District received $4,152,568 for 77,500 students; Langley School District received $2,178,546 for 23,690 students; Mission School District $425,014 for 6,506 students; Chilliwack School District $740,968 for 14,873 students; New Westminster School District $1,622,459 for 7,303 students; and Vancouver School District $9,865,189 for 50,573 students.
The Equity of Opportunity Supplement, which helps fund children and youth receiving non-clinical mental health supports and those in care, is calculated based on a formula that has to do with the level of income and the number of vulnerable students in the district.
However, noted Murray, there are errors in that calculation he would like the province to address.
One of the problems, explained Murray, is that the calculations are based on the number of students accessing mental health services in other communities, even if the students attend schools in SD42.
“They’ve calculated it based on students attending mental health services if they were going to offices in Langley or Coquitlam, even if they were our students,” he explained, noting that those districts then receive more funding.
Which is a problem, said Murray, because the services students are offered in other communities are not offered in Maple Ridge or Pitt Meadows.
He believes the supplement should be based on the number of students who require mental health services and not the districts where they are receiving the services.
Here SD42 received $443,385, compared to: Coquitlam at $949,272; Surrey $$2,462,925; Langley $638,225; Mission $328,065; Chilliwack $830,518; New Westminster $383,299; and Vancouver at $2,054,320.
In total, this means that SD42 only received $64.17 per student – the lowest amount in the province with only SD93, Conseil Scolaire Francophone receiving the least at $63.89 per student.
However, some schools received thousands per student like SD49, Central Coast, received $1,226.63 per student this past school year and SD87, Stikine – a school district along the Alaska/Yukon border that covers the communities of Dease Lake, Lower Post, Telegraph Creek, and Atlin – received the most, a whopping $3,323.42 per student.
Coquitlam received $77.80 per student, Surrey $85.36 per student, Langley $118.90 per student; Mission $115.75 per student; Chilliwack $105.66 per student, New Westminster $274.63 per student, and Vancouver $235.69 per student.
“There’s not a lot of equity in this,” added Murray.
The B.C. Ministry of Education and Child Care responded that certain types of funding are based on parameters to meet the unique student needs in a school district – one district may not have the same demographic or socio-economic profile as another – which may result in a difference of funding.
Districts, explained ministry spokesperson Tessah Clark, receive proportional funding through the Equity of Opportunity Supplement (EOS) to support children and youth in care, students receiving non-clinical mental health supports, and those in low-income families.
Murray’s intention is not to have funding reduced for the school districts that receive more, but that districts like SD42 and others at the low end to be increased to the same level of funding.
“We simply want to be able to provide the same kind of services that students in those other districts are able to receive and we believe that’s best practice and that’s what we should be able to do,” said Murray.
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