School district gets boost in funding Half a buck is better than none, board staff say By Chris Woodall Howe Sound district schools will get $1,472,573 in additional money for 1998-99, but reaction to what the province calls "a significant increase to core education funding," has been mixed. The boost gives the district a preliminary budget of $28,365,755 for the school year and is part of $105 million more in core funding to be handed out by the provincial government. "Although we feel the funding announcement is good news, it is not as good as we would have believed it to be," says a letter from Howe Sound school board secretary-treasurer Nancy Edwards and superintendent Mike Fitzpatrick to district principals, teachers, trustees and district parent committee members. Howe Sound district, one of the fastest growing districts in the province, was one of 45 to get a financial shot in the arm. Fourteen other districts will receive less funding this year than last because of declining enrolment or the expiry of special grants, the Ministry of Education says. In real terms, the school district is getting $873,944 more in core funding after deductions for unplanned growth ($420,421) and funding for specific targeted areas has been deducted. That $874,000 will have to be spread thinly. "This increase must fund the provision of programs to the increased pupil population, moving of portable classrooms, previously negotiated provincial salary increase to teaching staff of 1 per cent ($150,000) and the provision of additional programs or enhanced services," the Edwards-Fitzpatrick letter says. There is a sense of the province not meeting school district expectations. "The district did receive additional funding in the primary area of $65 per pupil, but this same increase was given for other grade levels," says the Edwards-Fitzpatrick letter. "In our view, this is an indication that the funding level did not match some of the expectations which the Ministry (of Education) has set over the last couple of months." The ministry has, however, given the school board more flexibility in how it can spend the increase. For one thing, the school district is developing its 1998-99 budget differently from past years. A major part of that is about 75 per cent of district funding that will be decentralized to the school level, the Edwards-Fitzpatrick letter says. "School administrative staff will work with their parents and staff to draft a budget which meets the unique needs of their school," the letter says. Individual budgets will be reviewed by district senior staff and school board trustees before being approved. "This is a new process for our district," the letter says. "Parents and staff should speak to their school principal and ask how they can be involved." Teachers, however, have already said they won't be involved. The Howe Sound Teachers Association passed a motion at its general meeting back in February that it does "not support the move to site-based management (decentralization) and will not participate in the development and implementation of the plan." The association says decentralization creates "inequality of learning conditions between schools and possible conflict within schools." The association says wealthier communities (such as Whistler) can provide more for their schools than would be available to smaller and poorer communities. The association also says teachers would have to take on extra work that will lead to a reduction in time available for teaching. "Site-base management does not focus on student learning and… no research indicates any improvement in student learning under this management system," the association says.