April ’12 Trustee Report $48 M Shortfall for Victoria Students

First Priority Always……. Advocacy for the Children

A New Trustee’s Point of View April 16, 2012

Greater Victoria School District 61 Report #5

Important Motions………. April 16, 2012 Board Meeting Repeal Bill 22 Why? This motion had been tabled and therefore it was brought forward to the April Board meeting. 1) Motion- Repeal of Bill 22 That the Board of Education SD 61 write a letter to the Minister of Education calling on the government to repeal Bill 22 and instead, have an independent mediator appointed through the Labour Relations Board. (no net zero mandate….. why? As I told you last month, we just received our 2012-2013 budget-$171,000,000. With this net zero mandate and not even a CPI adjustment (2-3%), we are looking at a starting deficit of approx. $3.4M for our students. The motion was defeated 5-4. ( Trustees Orcherton, Horsman, Leonard, McEvoy and Ferris voted against the motion; Trustees Nohr, Loring-Kuhanga, McNally and Alpha voted for the motion. )

Here’s how our teachers feel. Remember, teachers are advocating for full restoration of funding for our most vulnerable learners, those students with special education designations. As well, teachers want their salaries to stay commensurate with the cost of living index. Please read the letter from our teachers.

Greater Victoria Teachers’ Association

Dear Trustees, RE: Bill 22 We are writing to express our disappointment that the Greater Victoria Board of Education has not taken a position opposed to Bill 22. This Bill is an infringement on the right of teachers to free collective bargaining. This is an affront to our rights as citizens in a democracy. This Bill imposes a mediation process that guarantees an outcome that favours the employer representative – BCPSEA. This again is contrary to the basic democratic principles of free and fair collective bargaining. We cannot imagine how the Board could not oppose a piece of legislation that denies teachers such basic democratic rights. This Bill removes class size averages and class composition limits. We believe this will result in larger and more complex classrooms, as funding continues to deteriorate. Class size and composition restrictions were the single best mechanism to ensuring long term stable funding for teaching staff, as the years prior to 2001 demonstrate. We anticipate a significant deterioration of classroom conditions resulting from this Bill. Finally we need you to know that your decision will impact the relationships between teachers and the District at both the school and District level. Never have teachers felt more demoralized and less respected.

Yours truly, Tara Ehrcke President, GVTA

• This letter reflects the position of most if not all teachers in our district. The union speaks for the teachers reflecting their position.

I’d like to thank the three teachers ( Tara Erhcke, Keely Roden ( Esquimalt) and Barbara Macaulay ( Northridge ) who spoke at the Board meeting about their concerns with Bill 22. All three gave a very personal and compelling perspective about what our students may face in the coming years.

2) Motion-Needs Budget Proposal – Trustee McNally brought this motion forward and it was an especially important motion given the fact that trustees had just received an estimate of $48M as the current GAP in funding for our students!

That the Board of Education of SD 61 ( Greater Victoria ) submit only a needs budget reflecting remedies for the on-going structural deficit and reflecting costs for restoration of all services to the levels of service that existed in 2001.

The motion was defeated 5-4. ( Trustees Orcherton, Horsman, Leonard, McEvoy and Ferris voted against the motion; Trustees Nohr, Loring-Kuhanga, McNally and Alpha voted for the motion. )

3) We had a small surplus that we reviewed carefully in light of the input from our partner groups. There was some good debate at the Board table as we pointed out that students need teachers in many cases for instruction rather than educational assistants for support. The following motion was passed unanimously.

That the Board of Education of School District No. 61 (Greater Victoria apply the $349,541 projected surplus in the following manner, for the 2012-2013 budget year, upon passing of the budget bylaw. $95,563 to add 1 FTE psychologist to help deal with the backlog of psychometric assessments for students in grades K-3 in School District No. 61. $50,000 to be added for support services to psychologists and speech and language pathologists so that more time is made available for therapy with special needs students. $203,978 will be used for the hiring of Educational assistants or teachers for support for classrooms, students and students that are hearing impaired. Motion Carried Unanimously

3) Motion- Annual Budget Bylaw That the Board of Education of SD 61 ( Greater Victoria ) 2012/2013 Annual Budget Bylaw in the amount of $194,366,227 be: read for the first, second and third time, passed and adopted on April 16, 2012.

The motion was passed 5-4. ( Trustees Orcherton, Horsman, Leonard, McEvoy and Ferris voted for the motion; Trustees Nohr, Loring-Kuhanga, McNally and Alpha voted against the motion. )

*I could not vote for this budget when I know that many, many of our students are being seriously neglected and they are not receiving an educational experience appropriate for their needs. This situation affects everyone else in the class as well. Also, with respect to the principle of equity, this unacceptable situation is most pervasive in our schools located in lower socio-economic areas thus contributing to the perpetuation of more students in this demographic not graduating from high school.

PACs please consider making a letter writing initiative on behalf of public education one of your activities in the month of May.

You could write to your MLA, Minister of Education and/or the Premier and express your expectation that schools in SD 61 should be fully funded, at least back to the 2001-2002 levels thus adding approximately $ 48M.

• premier@gov.bc.ca

• *minister.educ@gov.bc.ca

• MLA Finder- drop down menu / easy to use

• robin.austin.mla@leg.bc.ca education critic

Thank you for taking the time to read this April report. I apologize for its tardiness. I would also ask you to please send this on to al

Your advocate for public education and trustee,

Deborah Nohr

Posted in Uncategorized

MARCH TRUSTEE REPORT- 2012

First Priority Always……. Advocacy for the Children

A New Trustee’s Point of View               MARCH, 2012

Greater Victoria School District 61

 Report #4

Important Motions….from the March 26, 2012 Board Meeting

Repeal Bill 22    Why?

1)    That the Board of Education SD 61 write a letter to the Minister of Education calling on the government to repeal Bill 22 and instead, have an independent mediator appointed through the Labour Relations Board. (no net zero mandate….. why? We just received our 2012-2013 budget-$171,000,000. With this net zero mandate and not even a CPI adjustment (2-3%), we are looking at a starting deficit of approx. $3.4M for our students.

Rationale:

Bill 22 is in violation of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It parallels the same law that this BC government put in place for health care workers  (2001) and the Supreme Court of Canada ruled as unconstitutional (2007).

Bill 22 is undemocratic as it eliminates workers rights to bargain collectively for their working conditions. Free collective bargaining is a fundamental principle for all  Canadian workers within a union.* Remember teachers’ working conditions almost always reflect student learning conditions. Teachers know what makes a classroom work,

Bill 22 is invalid because it is in contravention of the BC Supreme Court decision (April, 2011) that ruled Bill 28 prohibited teachers’ right to bargain working conditions.

It is also unconstitutional because it imposes conditions on the mediator rather than allowing the mediator to be truly independent and ‘serve as a trusted neutral influence on the two parties. A mediator who represents the government…… would be perverse’. ( SD 46)

Motion-Tabled until April ( gather more information ) We don’t need more information to see that it is unconstitutional and not in the best interests of children.

Good faith bargaining is not possible when one side sets in place pre-conditions.

Please consider this commentary.

Joel Bakan  Vancouver Sun    March 16, 2012

The B.C. Liberal government is poised, once again, to violate the legal rights of workers, this time with Bill 22, which, if it becomes law, will prohibit teachers from striking and limit their collective bargaining rights.

In 2007, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that the government had violated the Canadian Charter by imposing legislative restrictions on the rights of health workers to bargain collectively. In April 2011, the British Columbia Supreme Court followed that decision to rule that legislation concerning teachers was unconstitutional, and thereby invalid, because it prohibited bargaining on class size, class composition and the ratios of teachers to students.

It is those very same restrictions that the government now seeks to reinstate with Bill 22, a disturbing disregard for such a recent judicial declaration that they are constitutionally invalid.

Bill 22 also flies in the face of Canada’s international treaty obligations. On no fewer than 10 occasions — half of which concerned teachers — the Freedom of Association Committee of the United Nations International Labour Organization has found the B.C. Liberal government to be in breach of labour treaties. In a recent report, concerning legislation similar to Bill 22, the committee noted as particularly problematic the tendency of this government to legislatively prohibit strikes, impose rates and working conditions, circumscribe the scope of collective bargaining, and restructure the bargaining process.

The proposed Bill 22 does all of those things and more. As such, it almost certainly violates international law as well as constitutional law.

Governments are obliged to govern according to law. That is what distinguishes democracies from tyrannies. As a fundamental democratic principle, the rule of law is seriously jeopardized when governments play fast and loose with constitutional and international laws, as this government is now doing with Bill 22.

If Bill 22 becomes law, the government will demand that teachers respect its provisions (including those making strikes illegal). It will condemn those who defy the act as lawbreakers and punish them with severe fines ($475 per day for a teacher; $2,500 per day for a union officer; $1.3 million per day for the BCTF).

In short, the government will demand that the rule of its law be respected, while, at the same time, its actions dangerously encroach upon the rule of law.

Joel Bakan teaches in the faculty of law at the University of British Columbia.

© Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun

The Learning Improvement Fund, a response to the BC Supreme Court decision-April, 2011, has been set at $30M. This would look like .6 educational aide or .2 speech and language specialist/teacher  at each Victoria school. In the BC Supreme Court decision, April, 2011, the judge referenced the removal of $275M back in 2001/2002 and that would be at least $300M in 2012. Basic math calculations indicate that the LIF should provide ten times the funds. Our public education system is being STARVED…and that translates into unacceptable neglect of our children. At our March Board meeting Trustee Horsman brought forward the following motion.

Trustee Horsman – Class Organization and Behaviour Management Fund

That the Board of Education of School District No. 61 (Greater Victoria) write to the Minister of Education asking that the government double the amount of money offered for the Learning Improvement Fund (in the first, second and third years).

If…and that is a big if, the government responded, the fund would be 2X30M-60M in the first year, 2X$65M-$130M in the second year and 2X$75M-$150M in the third year. It may sound like a lot, but it isn’t. I argued that we must not become inured  to a ‘scarcity’ paradigm  for our children’s education…..we must not let this happen. I recommended that we ask for the full $300M. The motion passed without an amendment to ask for the full amount taken out and that is why you see Trustee Loring-Kuhanga and Trustee Nohr opposing the motion.

FYI…We have received the budget for 2012-2013 and the LIF is $30M.That means Victoria will receive $961,762 or .6 EA per school.

Motion-Carried

Voting Record- 7 in favour (Alpha, Orcherton, Horsman, Ferris, Leonard, McEvoy, McNally), 2 opposed (Nohr, Loring- Kuhanga) Motion carried

 Trustee Nohr – Additional Budget Input

That the Board of Education of School District No. 61 (Greater Victoria) schedule working meetings with the Superintendent and Secretary-Treasurer including all interested trustees to develop the 2012-2013 budget based on meeting District goals and input from parents, school staff and any other affected partner group.

I wanted to know how, when and who would be reviewing the SPC input, the public input at the round table budget meetings and other partner group ideas/issues. There was NO interest by the majority of trustees to establish a series of meetings for this purpose. At this time I still have not received any specific information about meetings, participants and date times to consider this information and make small but important changes considering  ‘partner input’ to the budget for 2012-2013. I am meeting with the Superintendent to review much of the partner groups’ input for consideration.

2 in favour ( Loring-Kuhanga, Nohr) and 7 against (Alpha, McNally, Orcherton, Horsman, Ferris, Leonard, McEvoy)

Motion Defeated

C. Trustee McNally – Budget Advisory Committee

That the Board of Education of School District No. 61 (Greater Victoria) instruct Budget Advisory (Ad Hoc) Committee Chair immediately restructure the Budget Advisory Committee (presently made up of Trustees Orcherton, Horsman, Ferris and Alpha) to include all Trustees on an ex-officio basis, and members of the public and partner groups who wish to attend on a non-voting, observer basis. (motion withdrawn)

This was a great motion because it would have included all trustees in the discussions about the budget. Unfortunately, Trustee McNally withdrew the motion. We need to have all trustees involved. At this time there is not the open governance model I would want to see.

On April 16th, the Board will be voting on a budget that seriously and significantly underfunds public education for our children. Sadly, the greatest impact of underfunding falls on the already weakened shoulders of our poorest students.Let us watch out for our most vulnerable students. Let us all work toward equity in the system.

Please read the following very thoughtful perspective on this issue.

I take exception with Geoff Johnson’s March 21st perspective regarding the response of some school boards to what they determine to be inadequate education funding allocations.  Further I am offended by Mr. Johnson’s implication that the ethically bankrupt behaviour of the corporate elite is somehow equivalent to the principled decisions that some boards arrive at in their efforts to meet the needs of their student body.  It seems hardly legitimate to compare the self-serving greed and disdain for others exemplified by the executives of Enron, Wall Street investment banks and, for a Canadian example, Nortel, with reasoned, researched and public debate in response to what is generally conceded to be a broken funding formula.

Mr. Johnson appears to equate ethical behaviour with unquestioning obedience.  We all know how well “I was only following orders” stands up to scrutiny.  The very essence of ethical behaviour is to look beyond laws and regulations and consider one’s own moral compass.  While I can agree that taking an oath one has no intention of upholding raises questions of ethical behaviour, I must also question the morality of a situation in which the institution that allocates budgets simultaneously writes the legislation to bar deficit financing and extract commitments of acquiescence as a condition of public office.

If legislation was entirely consistent with morality, then there may be no need for such discussion at all; one could simply follow directions and rest easily at night.  Life is not so clear cut however and the issue of trustee adherence to the School Act provides a perfect example.  While Section 111 does require boards to submit a budget in which expenditures do not exceed revenue; the School Act is not without ambiguity.  Consider Section 65 (1): A board is responsible for the improvement of student achievement in the school district.

At a time when budget allocations for school boards will only support a portion of the services needed by special needs students, when per student allocations don’t keep pace with inflation, when the $30 million identified for Year 1 of the much heralded Learning Improvement Fund equates to slightly more than one half of one percent of the annual operating grant allocation (or slightly less than 8% of annual special needs funding), one might wonder whether submissive acceptance of provincial budget allocations is truly the mark of ethical conduct.

This past year Saanich School Board was successful in its quest for additional provincial funding beyond their original budget allocation.  Their presentations on the issue amply demonstrate that their decision to take this stand was not only well researched, it was critical to their efforts to achieve their fundamental purpose of improving student achievement (http://alturl.com/jrzsp).

Ultimately the Province also holds the power to dismiss School Boards that choose not to submit balanced budgets.  Trustees make their decisions knowledge in full knowledge of this possible outcome.  To risk one’s position in an effort to better provide for our children is, in my mind, the very measure of ethical behaviour.

Rob Paynter is a parent of children in School District 61 and a past candidate for school board trustee. He previously served ethically as an officer in the Canadian Forces in Canada and overseas on peacekeeping operations.

Sincerely,

Deborah Nohn

trustee SD 61