Langley Advance Times is offering this weekly feature called “At Your Service.”
It’s another forum in which to put questions to our local politicians about key issues facing our community and its residents.
Using a basic question-and-answer format, elected officials will be asked one question at a time and given the opportunity to respond (to a maximum of 250 words) on that said issue.
Alternating between elected groups, Langley City and Langley Township councils, Langley School Board, Langley MLAs, and Langley MPs each have a chance to participate.
The answers provided will be published in their entirety online Sundays.
Langley MLAs were asked: Should school districts like Langley, which saw enrolment go up by more than 100 students after the start of the school year, receive a per-student funding top-up from the province?
Abbotsford South MLA Bruce Banman
A. John Horgan and the NDP’s funding model for schools and school districts has been far from perfect.
Five years ago, Horgan promised to eliminate portables from schools in the province, but today there are more portables than ever before.
At the height of the pandemic, John Horgan broke his promise to students and staff of Independent Distributed Learning (IDL) schools and cut IDL school budgets by 20 per cent. This decision disproportionately impacted children with learning disabilities, as well as immuno-compromised children who could not safely attend traditional schools, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.
B.C. is long overdue for an overhaul of our school funding system, and the NDP have been shuffling their feet every year they have been in office.
Back in December 2018, Horgan promised to “fix” the funding formula and conducted a review. The final report from the funding model review panel was entitled “Improving Equity and Accountability.”
The report outlined 22 recommendations, which could help address many of the discrepancies in the current funding model. As of today, only seven of the recommendations in the plan have been implemented. When pressed last year,the education minister was unable to provide a clear plan or timeline as to when the government might achieve the rest.
Any changes to the current funding model for school districts should be done in close consultation with them, to ensure they have the funding and resources they need to meet our growing student population and offer the next generation of learners the best possible education.
Abbotsford West MLA Michael de Jong
A. Since 2018, John Horgan and the NDP have been promising an overhaul of our school funding system. But year after year, they have failed to take real action.
A final report delivered to government from the funding model review panel included a list of 22 recommendations, however, only seven have been put in place. Making matters worse, the minister of education has no clear timeline or plan for implementing the other recommendations, leaving people to wonder whether the changes will ever be made.
As government hopefully moves forward in this process, they need to ensure that important decisions are made in consultation with school districts so that every corner of the province has the resources to provide students with an exceptional and equitable education that meets their individual needs.
Unfortunately, the NDP has a track record on education that makes it difficult to trust they will honour their word.
Five years ago, the NDP promised to eliminate portables from B.C. schools, but now there are more than ever.
We also can’t forget that in the midst of the pandemic, the NDP decided to cut Independent Distributed Learning (IDL) school budgets by 20 per cent. A decision that disproportionately impacted children with learning disabilities and those who could not safely attend traditional schools during the COVID-19 pandemic.
At the end of the day, we know that our current system is not perfect and it is government’s responsibility to make the necessary changes and ensure the best possible education for B.C. students.
Langley-East MLA Megan Dykeman
A. Investing in education is extremely important to our government, and we know that growing populations in B.C. means that school districts need more funding.
That’s one of the reasons why we have continued to increase our total education budget since being elected, adding up to $1.8 billion extra dollars since 2016/17.
In Langley, we saw a $21-million increase in operating grants for the school district from the 2021 school year to support increased enrolment.
The province is also supporting growth here in the community by investing in new and improved schools, including recently announced upgrades and additional classrooms to Vanguard Secondary – that will provide safer spaces for all students to learn – the construction of the 550-seat Donna Gabriel Roberts Elementary school – which opened in September – and securing a land purchase for a new middle/high school in the district.
Langley MLA Andrew Mercier
A. Every April, the Ministry of Education and Child Care announces preliminary operating grants to allow school districts to budget for the upcoming school year.
We know that enrolment fluctuates, and that’s why school districts submit headcounts to the province three times a year in September, February, and May.
Doing this frequently means budgets increase or decrease throughout the school year depending on the number of students.
For example, the Langley School District’s original budget allocation in June 2021 was increased by $8 million by its final allocation for 2021/22, after adjusting for enrolment.
This means that any new students registered in the district will be accounted for this coming May, and the initial budget given to the district this year will be adjusted accordingly.
Our community is growing, and the province continues to make education a priority by increasing operating budgets and investing in new schools like Donna Gabriel Elementary and adding services and safety features to existing schools such as Vanguard Secondary.
Next week, Langley’s MPs are being asked: What more can Canada do to provide support to Ukraine in response to the Russian invasion?
Watch for the politicians’ answers online Sundays.