Kids suffering due to flawed funding: Trustees

Children can't wait while gov't 'tinkers' with CommunityLINK funding formula, says Surrey Board of Education.

Trustee Terry Allen and his fellow Surrey Board of Education members are demanding the provincial government address a longstanding funding inequity that harms vulnerable students in Surrey.

Trustee Terry Allen and his fellow Surrey Board of Education members are demanding the provincial government address a longstanding funding inequity that harms vulnerable students in Surrey.

It’s been barely two weeks since Surrey school trustees issued a public statement slamming the provincial government for an unfair funding formula that shortchanges the most vulnerable of Surrey students.

But board of education members again expressed their outrage and frustration about CommunityLINK dollars – and presented a formal motion – at a public meeting Thursday night, vowing to keep fighting for kids in need.

CommunityLINK funding comes from the province and pays for much-needed things such as lunch programs for low income students, initiatives at inner-city schools and counselling for at-risk children and youth.

Historically, Surrey has received a fraction of the money that smaller, less needy districts get. For example, Vancouver, which has fewer students than Surrey, receives about $8.7 million – $5 million more than Surrey. And Victoria, with a third the students, gets about the same as Surrey.

Several education ministers over the years have acknowledged the problem and committed to fix it, but no action has ever been taken.

“This is simply not right,” said Trustee Terry Allen after presenting a notice of motion demanding $2 million in interim funding from the province to begin to address the discrepancy. “We have the highest level of child poverty in the province and the most single-mother families.”

He also demanded the Ministry of Education assure Surrey it will correct the current “outdated” funding allocation in time for the 2012 school year.

“The only ones that suffer … are the children. The children,” a passionate Allen said, adding it’s questionable whether Surrey’s school meal program can continue. “To deprive children is not acceptable.”

His fellow trustees all agreed.

Trustee Laurie Larsen called the CommunityLINK funding formula a “disgrace,” saying the government should be embarrassed.

Trustee Reni Masi noted the formula was established in the 1990s.

“Surrey has changed,” he said. “We have major social problems in Surrey and we need to be supported to address those social problems.”

Board chair Laurae McNally said that lack of support makes it nearly impossible to achieve the province’s goal of improving student graduation rates.

“Children don’t get a second chance,” she said. “They can’t wait for 10 years while the government tinkers with the formula.”