Well I said I was shocked when I spoke to a reporter from the Times- Colonist earlier this week regarding the amazing appearance of $300,000 in the Cowichan School District budget made public during the 1st and second readings on July 10th.
But frankly – I misspoke.
I am not surprised because I have become almost shock proof during my slog as trustee.
Whatever else you can say about this extra money which was not available to the elected board as late as the June 20th meeting you can certainly say this:
None of it went to rebuild the programs and services our month’s long community consultation revealed as priorities. Not only does this insult the concerns of the families and employees in the Cowichan School District who went to some effort to enlighten us– it condemns our kids to a continuing downward spiral in our classrooms.
In fact, we are loftily informed the extra cash will go where it is needed most – wait for it – the International Student Program. This is all to serve our new motto which is exactly like our old motto – “You Have To Spend Money to Make Money”. Roughly translated this means we must applaud the premise that school districts operate to obscure the obligations our province has to our kids and the people who nurture them based on the revenue they have collected from the population for just that purpose. Further, we must pretend to know about running a business. From what I can observe globally even the financial experts seem to be farting things up spectacularly (though it does seem to have worked in their favour while blighting everyone else) but somehow we are expected to do much better.
It never occurs to any of the prime players that setting about caring for the school district and the learning needs of thousands of kids is more than enough to occupy our energies. But really – I do not recall in the time I spent on the board ever hearing any parent or member of staff tell us they really thought we should priorise the International Student program …so what gives?
Evidently, the Ministry Proconsul, Mr. MacKay has generously acknowledged this lapse in consultation and expressed a desire to speak with community to gauge their wishes.
This is very admirable of him however if he genuinely hopes to recognise the will of our community, he could simply review the results of last November’s trustee election, the data from our public consultation survey, the budget reports from our partner groups for the last 10 years, the record of our Public Budget meeting, the promise of the Strategic Plan built with community input and the overwhelming outpouring of support for our Restoration Budget.
Then it will not be necessary to cherry pick among a select handful of party adherents for another point of view more favourable to this current outcome. I suppose he is hoping if he does not make the mistake of talking to the same people we did he will secure a different result. He will have to be very choosy indeed.
The room was packed with administrators the night of the 1 and 2nd reading of the new improved budget. They sat solemnly while the budget built by the elected board was summarily rescinded; they observed as the portion of that budget which represented a sincere attempt to redirect the path our boards had walked for many years – our Restoration Budget -was expunged with glee. I suppose they might feel quite triumphant at this development – signifying as it does the end of any chance this year of a return of some of our most dearly needed programs and services.
It’s a funny sort of triumph really, if you think about it. A group of exceedingly well paid educators cheering on the march of cuts and deterioration in our schools and the loss of legitimate governance when their voices raised in accord could reverse this desperate course. Imagine having such influence and using it only to obscure the reality parked right in front of you.
The bully budget dropped in place by the ministry with the $2.3 million in cuts and no remediation confirms only this: it was quite simple for the mighty to sack an elected board but the very conditions that board sought to address remain large as life.
Evidently they are not so mighty after all.
Former Trustee, Current Gardener