After protests, Greater Victoria School District delays decision on budget cuts
VICTORIA -- The Greater Victoria School District has postponed a decision on its 2021/22 budget after hundreds of people protested the school district's proposed budget cuts over the weekend.
The school district board was originally scheduled to vote on the budget on Monday evening.
The proposed budget planned to make cuts to the school district's middle school music programs, counsellors, educational assistants, clerical staff and food programs to offset for the school district's estimated $7 million deficit for the coming year.
The school district says that the deficit is a result of the pandemic, and notes that school districts in B.C. are required to run a balanced budget each year.
However, hundreds of protesters gathered Saturday calling on the school district to reject its proposed budget in its current form.
Students, families and teachers lined Douglas Street on Saturday carrying signs and playing instruments.
"We’re trying to take a stand here to have the vote go a different way and not approve the proposed budget on Monday and make significant amendments," said Winona Waldron, president of the Greater Victoria Teachers Association at the protest Saturday.
Now the school district says a vote on the upcoming budget has been postponed "until further notice."
"We heard the feedback from our learning community loud and clear, so we’re requesting outside support to help the board balance and approve its budget," said Greater Victoria School Board chair Jordan Watters in a statement Monday.
"The chair and the superintendent have requested the Ministry of Education to assist with identifying an independent advisor to help review the process and options and make recommendations to the board," she said.
On Monday, the B.C. government told CTV News that it had received a request for assistance from the Greater Victoria School Board.
"We will support the board by identifying an independent advisor to help the board review its options as it works toward finalizing its 2021-2022 budget," said the Ministry of Education in a statement.
"The ministry will remain in close contact with the school district and will continue to support them as they work through this process."
At the weekend's protest, members of the teacher's association said they'd been calling on the provincial government to allow school boards to run a budget deficit for one year because of the pandemic.
Meanwhile, the association says it expects the school district's deficit to be smaller than what the school board is estimating.
"We feel they’re vastly underestimating the revenue that will be expected as kids return from other districts, from online learning and back to our school," said Waldron on Saturday.