The Sooke School District (SD62) revealed its proposed 2015-16 budget this week and there’s good news and bad news contained therein.
The good news is they can still operate the district with the amount of money expected to be received from the province. Staff have even found $260,000 that wasn’t available last year.
The bad news is that money is a proverbial drop in the bucket when considering the district is still reeling from having to make $4.1 million in cuts over the past two years. The “found money” is just 6.3 per cent of the amount slashed from past budgets.
Put it this way: if you were given $100 to spend, and did so, but the next time you wanted to purchase or do the same thing, you were only allotted $6.30, you’d likely have some difficulties.
Adding another voice to arguments calling for more government funding for public education is like encountering another tumbleweed on a prairie field. It gets lost in the breeze with all the others. That’s not what we’re doing here.
Our aim is to give kudos to the management of the school district for finding some money – any money – to put back into the system to benefit students in the face of dwindling funds. While districts across the province are having difficulty making the cuts demanded by the Ministry of Education, SD62 seems to have done that proactively and is now able to take a breath, if only a shallow one.
They’re planning to add clerical hours, so the offices of the schools will be better staffed more often, thus making the student, parent, instructor and administrator experience better, even if only slightly – $40,000 doesn’t go very far in terms of district-wide wages.
They’re also considering restoring their transportation manager position – right now they’re splitting one with Saanich. Considering two new high schools will open this fall and that grade configurations are being re-jigged district-wide, that’s a good plan. It’s likely to be a full-time job figuring out how to get all those kids to their new schools.
SD62 is currently conferring with stakeholders on what to do with the money. We trust it will be put to good use and will ever-so-slightly improve a system that has been financially hamstrung in recent years.