Surrey, B.C. schools facing cuts despite budget hike

The Surrey Board of Education said it is looking at some tough decisions to manage its budget for the next school year.

Recently, the Surrey School District passed a 1.1 billion dollar budget but the board says it is still not enough to prevent cuts.

Terry Allen, the Surrey School Board budget chair and trustee told Global News that such a big budget could lead people to think the district has lots of money but that is not the case.

“So we’ve worked our way through it and we realize that there are certain areas that we’re going to have to cut,” Allen said. “One of them being the bus in service to some students, and also program changes.”

Surrey has 85,000 students and is growing by 2,500 each year, which Allen said is a huge drain on the budget.

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While the Strong Start program, which was at risk of being cancelled, will continue to operate in 23 schools, Allen said that program is an example of what’s happening in Surrey schools.

“You put all these programs in and when you have no additional funding for inflation, everybody in B.C. understands what inflation is all about, they can barely put food on the table because of that,” Allen said.

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“It’s no different for the school districts. Absolutely no different for the school district and government does not add to the funding for inflation.”

Click to play video: 'Saving StrongStart'

Saving StrongStart

Allen said more cuts are likely to come if the budget remains the same next year.

“It’ll actually be worse,” he said. “So I don’t really know what else to say other than the fact that the funding, the shortfall in funding is really impacting the students.”

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Anne Whitmore, the Surrey District Parents Advisory Council’s acting president told Global News that they predicted these cuts were coming.

“What I didn’t realize was how that would impact the actual programming and other opportunities available to children in the district,” she said. “This is not a kid’s problem. This is an adult problem. And it’s for adults who are in charge, who have the ability to affect change.”

Whitemore said where she sees the most impact is among children who need the most support.

“I can say I have a child who has support needs and rather than having consistent EA support, they might have one person covering four to five students in one class, and then for a half day and then another person coming in and so having that consistency of support, somebody that knows them, that is able to be there anticipate what’s going to happen because they worked really closely with that child in that classroom, we’re not seeing that as much.”

Click to play video: 'Desperate Surrey mother stages one-woman child care protest'

Desperate Surrey mother stages one-woman child care protest

Whitmore said she would like to see enough money for the needs of the school district.

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“If you look at our capital ask for last year, based on that., I think it was 17 new schools. We got one,” she said.

Whitmore added that in Clayton Heights and Cloverdale, they will need 66 portables to house the incoming students.

“That’s ridiculous and there’s no more money for portables.”

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