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Opinion  

Centralize to save schools

School boards across the Okanagan and across the province know they’ll have to cut a combined $29 million out of their budgets this year, but say they don’t know where to start.

That’s because, as always, the school districts are all looking out for their own turf and hoping some other district somewhere else will cut more, meaning they’ll have to cut less.

It’s that kind of thinking that has to stop if B.C.’s education system is to find any kind of meaningful savings.

Premier Christy Clark said as much recently when she addressed the Kelowna Chamber of Commerce just after release of the provincial budget.

"This has been done by the health-care system, it's been done by the university and college system. There's no reason why school boards can't find similar savings," said Clark.

"There is no reason why two school boards that are sitting right beside each other, serving almost the same geographical population, would have two payroll departments, two human resources departments.“

The approach makes sense. Why do administrative functions need to be duplicated? Why does the Okanagan need three school districts, when it could be served by one central body? Many admin services could be operated on a provincial basis.

Does every school need a principal and a vice-principal?

These are all difficult questions that must be answered.

The Central Okanagan district readily admits it won’t be receiving any less funding. But the cuts must be found to accommodate contractual obligations won by the B.C. Teachers Federation last year, along with increasing utility costs.

Some might say why cut at all? Just keep going back to the well and increasing the tax burden.

But there are limits to what taxpayers can bear. Everyone wants the best school system possible, but it also has to be as efficient as possible to maximize use of our tax dollars.

No one wants to cut classroom funding that goes directly to teaching. That is the school system’s primary function. Make the cuts where they will have the least impact – in administration.

And school boards had better get used to the idea of working together, because they’ll be asked to save an additional $54 million over the following two years.

– News Director Jon Manchester

 

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