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Government gives another ‘one-time’ grant to school boards

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The Howe Sound School District will get an extra $380,581 for education from the government.

"It’s good news," said school board secretary-treasurer Nancy Edwards.

"Every little bit helps."

Edwards said the board would discuss what to do with the money at its next meeting. But it is likely the focus will remain on student needs.

While the news that the provincial Liberals have made $50 million available for education was welcomed by most educators, many still feel it won’t be enough to deal with salary increases, inflationary pressures and other costs.

Many school districts have already increased class sizes, laid off teachers and aids for special needs children, and even closed schools to deal with budgetary pressures.

Howe Sound Teacher’s Association president Marjorie Reimer cautiously welcomed the grant, but pointed out the district has already lost 23 teacher positions.

She also questioned how the money fits in with the Liberal promise of stable, multi-year funding.

"It puts a lie to the Liberal promise to maintain educational funding," said Reimer.

"It is a paltry amount compared to the $210 million they have cut. And it also negates one more promise, that they were going to be stable and consistent in their funding.

"It is a little difficult to plan when you have this kind of money arriving without any warning and without any guarantee for next year.

"However, I think it would be fair to say that Howe Sound teachers are happy that more money has arrived in the system.

"What we are hoping is that the board will be able to use this money to flesh out some of the cuts to the bone that have been made, particularly in libraries and also for special education students where service cuts have been really devastating to them.

"You can’t really fault the board which is doing the best they can with the cuts they have made."

Reimer is hopeful that the grant is also a result of the lobbying parents, teachers, administrators and students have been consistently engaged in.

"Maybe the government is finally listening," she said.

Last month the Myrtle Philip Parent Advisory Council sent letters to the government lobbying for more money to reduce the increased class sizes it is coping with this year.

PAC Chairwoman Cathy Jewett, while welcoming the money, wants to see how it will be used in the schools. She is hoping it will go to relieve some of the pressures at Myrtle Philip.

"We have some of the biggest class sizes in the district, we have no physical education teacher, we have music only in the primary grades and our teacher librarian is worried about funding cuts," said Jewett.

"We will be very interested to see what they will do with the money to improve the education of our kids."

The money comes from savings in the education ministry and is in addition to the $3.79 billion for 2003-04 year.

Last year savings resulted in a "one-time" grant of $44.6 million for school boards.

Boards across the province are under pressure for many reasons but chief among them was the government’s decision to grant a salary increase for teachers but refuse to provide additional funds to cover the increase..

This year’s $50 million grant will cover the 2.5 per cent teacher salary increase for 2003-04 and so does not really represent extra money for the boards to spend.

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