Teachers want school board audit Class size largest in B.C. By Chris Woodall The school board budget may have got $1.7 million more from the province, but the Howe Sound Teachers Association wants the province to conduct an audit to discover what happened to it. "Despite a projected increase of 3.5 per cent in student enrolment (156 students), the preliminary budget reveals a reduction in the number of teachers employed," says teachers association president Alex Miller in a press release issued this week. "The reasonable expectation would be an increase of 8.3 full-time teachers," he says. "So where has all the money gone?" The result is Howe Sound has "one of the worst student to educator ratios in the province," Miller says. The school board was not able to comment on the teachers association allegations at Pique Newsmagazine's publication deadline. Senior administrators were tied up in meetings with education ministry officials regarding the bad air situation in Howe Sound schools. Howe Sound's teachers passed a motion June 11 requesting a ministry audit of the school board. Miller sent a letter to education minister Paul Ramsey this week. The provincial average is 16.8 students for each teacher, but Howe Sound has an average ratio of 18.4, with one school as high as 20.66 students for each teacher, Miller says. And although special education has been given an increase of $327,621 for it, Miller says services have been reduced or cancelled. There are several examples where special educators have seen their jobs reduced or halted, according to the teachers association. "Speech and language services has been reduced by 12.5 per cent, giving us a ratio of one teacher to 3,296 students, compared to ministry funding for 1 to 1,700," Miller says. "School psychology service to Squamish-area students is being reduced by 30 per cent; the hearing impaired program is reduced by 37 per cent; and one English as a second language teacher has had that part of her job cancelled while two other schools have reduced the service by 20 and 30 per cent" Miller says. Miller says site-based management, or the ability of individual schools to determine their own use of budgets, is to blame for the reduction in these services. The teachers association has been against site-based management, although it is supposed to empower school administrators, parent groups and teachers, providing better education for a school's students. "In all the research done on site-based management, there has not been one shred of evidence to show it has any educational advantage for students," Miller says.