QUESNEL – Cariboo North MLA Coralee Oakes has announced the provincial government is redirecting $168,780 in administrative savings back to Quesnel School District 28 to help it deal with local cost pressures and provide front line services for students.

“Over the last many months I have met with and taken the messages I have heard from both the School District Trustees, CUPE, First Nations band members as well as constituents to Victoria, and today’s announcement is part of this collaboration. We’ve made a commitment that classrooms and services for students are the priority when it comes to education funding,” said Oakes. “While the school district has autonomy, there is a fear amongst constituents of the financial trickle-down effect of closing rural schools. The decision to close Kersley and Parkland reduces the small community supplement by $378,000 (a provincial fund designed to support keeping rural schools open) and the decision also reduces the operation funding for geographic factors by $35,500. Rural schools bring additional partnerships to the table such as the Regional District for local recreation and library services.  Finally, there is a tipping point on how long parents will allow their children to be on a bus (especially small children) I have heard from concerned parents that over an hour is that tipping point over that they will consider home schooling their children. I have heard from ?Esdilagh First Nation and Lhtako Dene First Nation members that their families are struggling with this decision. This is all lost revenue to the school district.”

The amount of money being left with Quesnel School District 28 is equal to the Year 2 of Administrative savings it was asked to find. Districts throughout British Columbia have made concerted efforts to reduce spending on administration costs – and these efforts have made it possible to help flow those resources into classrooms and services for students.

“It’s never easy to make the tough decisions and I thank the Quesnel School District for their diligent work to reduce administrative costs. The school district continues to receive its ‘net zero’ funding protection, representing nearly 8 per cent of its operating grant; and, under the landmark labour stability agreement reached with the B.C. Teachers’ Federation and with CUPE the provincial government is providing school districts with the funds to cover the wage increases.  We can also confirm that the School District is not expected to come out of funding protection this year or next ( a concern the chair raised previously) and is  estimated to receive $2,187,485 in funding protection for 2016/17 school year,” said Oakes.

Quesnel School District 28 and all of B.C.’s school districts have been informed that they will not have to pay their share of $25 million worth of provincial charges this year, and instead can redirect that money into front line services for students.

Oakes has expressed she would like to meet with the school district’s chair quickly to discuss this funding and options to keep rural schools open, ensuring the region’s smaller communities continue to be well-served and minimizing the time students need to travel to-and-from school on buses.

“I hope this announcement will encourage trustees not to dismiss the recommendations from rural communities and try to keep their schools open, ensuring these important financial resources continue to benefit the entire district. It’s important we work in collaboration to ensure our region’s students continue to receive the high-quality instruction that has made B.C. a world-leader in educational outcomes,” Oakes added.