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Letter to BC Education Minister McRae from Sunshine Coast Board of Education re: Cooperative Gains Mandate

Letter to BC Education Minister McRae from Sunshine Coast Board of Education re: Cooperative Gains Mandate

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Published by Silas White
Sent December 19, 2012, this letter is in response to Minister McRae's December 3 request to boards to find 1.5% savings in their current budgets for support staff bargaining (and more recent Ministry clarifications that they want another 1.5% in next year's budget).
Sent December 19, 2012, this letter is in response to Minister McRae's December 3 request to boards to find 1.5% savings in their current budgets for support staff bargaining (and more recent Ministry clarifications that they want another 1.5% in next year's budget).

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Published by: Silas White on Dec 21, 2012
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12/21/2012

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School District No. 46
(
Sunshine
Coast)
A COMMUNITY ENGAGED IN LIFELONG LEARNINGAND EDUCATIONAL EXCELLENCE
 
BOARD OF EDUCATION
P.O. Box 220, Gibsons, BC V0N 1V0 ~ Tel: (604) 886-8811 ~ Fax: (604) 886-4652 
 
Via e-mail: educ.minister@gov.bc.caDecember 19, 2012
Honourable Minister, Don McRaeMinistry of EducationPO Box 9045 STN Prov GovtVictoria BC V8V 1X4
 Dear Minister McRae,Boards of Education across the province have made many difficult financial decisions in recentyears, due in part to declining enrolment, and in part to the Ministry’s failure to fund any risingcosts above collective agreement compensation increases.Now, you’re asking us to fund those, too—at least in the case of your December 3 request to finda 1.5% increase for support staff out of our current budgets, under impossible restrictions andtimelines. Your letter also neglects to mention that you apparently want us to find another 1.5%(for 3% overall) in our upcoming 2013–14 budget, which has since been confirmed by Ministryrepresentatives.The only way to meet the Mandate’s restrictions regarding real and measurable savings, no coststransferred to the public, no service reductions, etc. would be for the increased costs to becovered provincially. This is the reality of our decentralized system. It is unrealistic to think thatpartway through our current budget year we can suddenly identify savings through increasedrevenues, collective agreement trade-offs, or efficiencies and service redesigns that we haven’talready realized. Substantial cuts to operations, meanwhile, would contravene the Mandate’sprinciple regarding service level reductions.The most unbelievable part of this request is the timing. The Cooperative Gains Mandate wasofficially announced in the October 3, 2011 Throne Speech. Every commentator, elected officialand civil servant to examine the Mandate in the context of the K–12 sector has declared howchallenging it will be for us from that day forward. Many concluded that for K–12, it would bethe same as net-zero, as there are virtually no “cooperative” savings to be found. And yet it hastaken fourteen months—and six months after the expiration of K–12 support staff agreements—for your Ministry to presumably come up with 1% of central savings over two years. So now, itis completely unreasonable to turn around and tell us we have six weeks to find 3%.
 
______________________________________________________________________________ Page 2
P.O. Box 220, Gibsons, BC V0N 1V0 ~ Tel: (604) 886-8811 ~ Fax: (604) 886-4652 
 
As you know, you announce funding for the next school year in mid-March, and we then proceedto set our preliminary budgets by June. Therefore, the period of January to May, 2012, was whenwe could have considered savings in the 2012–13 budget. During this timeframe, we alsoconsulted with our stakeholders. We simply cannot do any of this during a period that isessentially the winter holidays, from a budget that has already been set and is already halfwaycomplete.For next year, we can identify savings after you announce your allocation of provincial funding,which we expect in March. We need to forewarn you, though, that we’re also constrained by thefollowing anticipated expenses:
 
a 1.3% increase to the teacher pension plan ($210,000),
 
movement to a standardized extended health plan for teachers,
 
increases of $45,000 in WorkSafe BC premiums,
 
a potential loss of $63,056 from the supplement for the Education Plan.Speaking of which, now would be a good time to tell us how much in central savings you’vebeen able to find for a teachers’ bargaining savings plan. Teacher bargaining is currentlyscheduled to start in March. If you expect districts to fund this savings plan, as well, thisexpectation will have a huge impact on our ability to pay for a 3% support staff increase for2013–14 and beyond, and also to cover the list above of other expected budget increases.Our Board is committed to having a constructive relationship with the Ministry of Education, forthe benefit of the students and communities for which we are mutually responsible. To get on aconstructive track, we have a couple suggestions:1.
 
Appeal to the Ministry of Finance to recognize that the present Cooperative GainsMandate does not work for the K–12 system. You recognize very well in your letter thateach sector has to approach Cooperative Gains bargaining “differently” due to “thefinancial capacity of each sector.” So in recognition of your acknowledgement thatdifferent sectors have different financial capacities, how can government expect that it isnecessarily going to work for every sector? In the case of K–12 education, it doesn’t.Perhaps the government can back up its oft-stated commitment to education by findingcooperative gains savings for K–12 education from within government as a whole, eventhrough anticipated government revenues, rather than the limited scope of the K–12sector. If those funds are transferred into the Ministry, in fact, you could even complywith the Mandate.2.
 
Provide us with more certainty in regards to our 2013–14 budget. Please confirm whatother savings you expect us to find next year. Will this include a teacher bargainingsavings plan? Will no district’s funding be reduced, despite declining enrolment (aswe’ve gratefully been promised in the past)? Looking for savings outside a real budgetprocess in not practical right now, but if you can provide us with enough information toget a head start on 2013–14, we’d at least be in a better position to do so.

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