LTA would like to see a parallel budget submitted

Editor: I write to set the record straight on a couple of points in “School budget calls for added staff,” (The Times, Feb. 18).Langley Teachers Association did not call upon the board to violate the law that requires a balanced budget. We requested that the board submit a “parallel” needs-based budget, which would highlight for the ministry the contrast between what is being allocated for instructional services versus what is actually needed to provide for the needs of Langley students. Other boards have done this in the past. Last year, then-chair Joan Bech mused aloud at a meeting about doing just this, but no motions were passed. This year, the LTA called upon the current board to request that such a parallel budget be submitted.While we welcome the 6.7 full time equivalent teachers the district has added this year, this does not make up for the lost services of 41 FTE teachers cut in the 2010-2011 budget. This year, Langley exceeds the provincial averages for class size and composition averages in all grade cohorts: Kindergarten, Grades 1-3, Grades 4-7 and Grades 8-12.I also pointed out in my presentation that Langley has the highest average class size average in the province in Grades 4-7 this year, and that almost one-third of Langley classes exceed the legislated standards for class size and composition, representing a 49 percent increase since October 2009 in reported classes which exceed the legislated standards. In addition, supporting teachers such as counsellors, resource teachers, ESL teachers, Reading Recovery and teacher-librarians have been cut, so these important services to students are dramatically reduced.Thus the LTA is concerned that the district is now proposing to “eliminate the operating deficit in a shorter time frame than what has been granted to us by the ministry.” In the board’s own document “2011-Looking Ahead,” the deficit elimination plan has been referred to as “a very reasonable time line for repayment,” so we question the need to accelerate the approved debt repayment plan at the expense of students currently in the system.Why is the recent additional funding,  based on this year’s increased enrolment and on the ministry identified needs of this year’s special needs student population, is not being spent on this year’s students.Secondly, I would like to correct the reported comment that I told trustees the LTA was only given one hour’s notice of a meeting with the secretary-treasurer and superintendent to discuss the budget.We were given three days notice, but this meant no other members of our executive could attend.We do not consider a single one hour meeting to be the “extensive consultation” referred to in the budget process document.Subsequently, we were encouraged to hear the secretary-treasurer state at the board meeting that other opportunities for input would be provided to all the partner groups prior to final adoption of the preliminary budget for 2011-2012. The Langley Teachers’ Association has accepted DPAC’s invitation to join with parents and other stakeholders in a Community Round Table. The LTA suggested to the board that this could be the vehicle that we need to develop a needs-based budget in a collaborative manner where all community stakeholders could meet together to discuss at length what is actually needed to support students in Langley. We hope that the board will accept the District Parent Advisory Council’s invitation to participate and look forward to a more meaningful and collaborative dialogue before the budget is finalized.Susan Fonseca, president,Langley Teachers Association