The Richmond Board of Education was relieved by a recent letter from the Minister of Education, but unsure what would come next.
Education Minister Don McRae had requested the provinces school boards to look within their budgets for additional savings that could be used to increase wages for public school support workers.
It was a concern to us because we dont have any savings sitting around, said Donna Sargent, chair of the Richmond school board. We run a tight ship here and dont just give savings away. Everything goes back to the classroom and students.
BC School Trustees Association president Michael McEvoy expressed the trustees concerns at a meeting with McRae after which the minister sent a letter to the boards stating he would take their responses to the Minister of Finance and retract his initial request.
The letter was discussed at the boards meeting last Monday.
Im glad he recognizes savings arent just sitting around in the budget, said Sargent. But now were unsure of what the next steps are going to be.
The public school support staff has been in negotiations with the government since November after contracts expired in June. Their last bargaining meeting was at the end of January with no resolution.
The workers havent received a wage increase since 2005, according to June Kaiser, president of Richmond CUPE Local 716.
The minister clearly had no comprehension of what the board has been going through or what the ramifications of that letter would be, said Kaiser, who hadnt expected to see a letter sent out to the boards. Maybe its because hes a new minister and wasnt aware of the situation, I dont know.
Kaiser added she understood the board doesnt have extra money in its budget and doesnt expect it to provide the funding.
However, she believed that given recent provincial expenditures, theres money available from the province.
Meanwhile, Sargents concerns lie in the precedent-setting possibility of McRaes actions.
If one district were to settle, requesting funding from a school boards budget could prove a viable option for the ministry.
If were being asked to find savings so CUPE workers can get a wage increase, we could assume the same might happen for the teachers as well, she said. We wouldnt want to set that precedent.
© Copyright 2013