The Board of Trustees for The Northern Lights School Division (NLSD) wants the Provincial Government to reverse its decision to freeze school board reserves and restore authority to school boards to use their resources to best meet the needs of their students and communities.
Arlene Hrynyk, NLSD Board Chair explains the impact the provincial budget has on the division. “With the cuts to the current (provincial) budget, Northern Lights, itself, is facing a 1.7 million to 2 million dollar deficit.” Hrynyk explains that the Division has saved funds for occasions such as these, “in years past, boards saved pennies over long periods of time to make dollars for those rainy days.” Example of the rainy days, when budgets are announced that are lower than anticipated. “What’s unprecedented this year is that in order for us (NLSD) to use our funds we need Ministerial approval,” Hrynyk explains the changes the Government made, “we’re quite concerned that is an absolute erosion of our local economy, and our ability to meet the needs of our children and our communities.”
Hrynyk says that NLSD has heard from the Education Minister, “there are no assurances that we (NLSD) will have the ability to use our reserves for what we need to use them for.” Hrynyk continues, “that in itself puts us in a guessing game.”
It’s not just the uncertainty of whether or not the funds will be there, it’ll also be a long process to obtain the funds. Hrynyk says, “the time it takes our staff and our board to present a budget is very extensive and there’s a cost to our system.”
NLSD recently completed their Strategic Planning Process, which allowed them to hear from their stakeholders, which include teachers, staff, students, parents, and community members. Now that the board has heard from their stakeholders, they try to allocate funds where the stakeholders have indicated are priorities. Hrynyk explains, “once we hear from our stakeholders we try to allocate the resources to what our communities deem as priorities.” Being able to follow through on the needs and wants of the stakeholders is now limited, “the fact that our hands have been tied in our ability to access our reserves to meet the needs of our system is unprecedented and not what we’ve ever experienced in the past.”
Hrynyk encourages parents, community members, and NLSD stakeholders to lobby their local MLA candidates about funding for education. “We need our parents to be writing letters to the Education Minister and The Premier to put the local economy back to the school boards so we can access our reserves as we see appropriate for our children.” Hrynyk concludes the most important thing the community can do, “we need people communicating the facts to the elected representatives and those seeking election, they need to truly understand the impact the budget has on the people making the decisions for the children.”