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Greater Victoria School District faces $6M budget shortfall, cuts coming

Head of the teacher’s union says plans will lead to layoffs and reduced programming
The Greater Victoria School District is looking a roughly $6 million budget shortfall. (Black Press Media File Photo)

The Greater Victoria Teachers’ Association is calling out the provincial government for under-funding the school district, leading to a situation at SD 61 where layoffs are imminent.

“It’s shameful and very disconcerting that the province does not fund districts adequately enough so that they are able to provide supports, programming, and the infrastructure that’s necessary to run a district,” said association president Ilda Turcotte.

The SD 61 school board is set to vote on a $318 million 2024-2025 budget on Thursday (April 11) night. There is a roughly $6 million shortfall, and Turcotte said the district is looking to make up most of it by cutting learning-support teachers, counsellors and music programs.

There will also be a hiring freeze for non school-based district staff.

“There are cuts across the board to every department and some positions that are currently vacant are not being filled,” Turcotte said. “And then the ones that affect my members the most, and our students, are cuts to counsellors and learning-support teachers.”

Turcotte blames rising costs due to inflation, as well as infrastructure replacement needs, for the shortfall.

She said the board is proposing to cut funding for the full-time equivalent of 1.6 learning-support teachers and 0.4 counsellors. While this doesn’t sound like much, Turcotte said it could mean letting go several part-time learning-support teachers.

The reduction in music programs is proposed to come mainly by ending the long-standing elementary strings violin program at more than 10 schools, and switching it to a hub format where students will travel to one of 14 schools to retain the program.

“The board is cutting supplies across every department and looking for savings in every department as much as they can, including services to students,” Turcotte said. “And the reason why they’re doing that is because they just don’t have enough money in their budget to deliver programming to students.”

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Education and Child Care said in a written statement that the Greater Victoria School District has had its budget boosted by more that $80 million for general operations and special programs since 2016, and the province continues to add to this steadily.

“Operating funding goes directly to boards of education, and school districts and their elected boards decide how best to allocate this funding to meet the needs of students across the school district.”

The budget and related cuts are scheduled for second and final readings at a special meeting of the SD 61 school board that will be broadcast on YouTube at 6 p.m. on Thursday evening.

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About the Author: Mark Page

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