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LETTER: MLA Katrine Conroy on school issues

Dear editor,

There has been a lot of passion and concern expressed regarding the possible cuts in our local schools.  Meetings in the district have been well attended and numerous people are also expressing their thoughts in writing to the School District. Meanwhile the School District Trustees and board staff have faced the tough questions and concerns with professionalism.

I have been asked how I feel about this situation and why I have not attended the public meetings. I wanted to address this issue directly.

As MLA for this area for 5 years now I have seen the many financial issues that School District 20 has had to contend with.  There have been cuts to the school’s annual facilities grants, a cut that was announced a week before school started when much spending had been done or committed. There was also the funding for PACs from gaming grants cut in half, announced on the first day of school. The school district also has to contend with increased MSP premiums and energy costs, the HST, and a requirement to become carbon neutral (without the aid of the facilities grant on top of it).  We, the NDP Opposition caucus have continuously questioned the Minister about these issues and raised how these cuts are hurting many rural school districts across the province.

I have met with school district staff and trustees over the last number of years and I have also talked to many parents. Having grandchildren who are students in School District 20 also gives me a personal interest.

School District 20 has a full slate of committed and elected representatives as school trustees. They have been given the authority by the citizens in this area to represent their interests in school district issues. As an MLA I work with the school district and have given and will continue to give their concerns a voice in the Legislature. I will continue to raise the issues of funding cuts and all of its ramifications in the Legislature with the Minister. However when it comes to how a school district decides how to balance their budget and the consequences that flow from that I cannot interfere. The school district has the authority to make those decisions. I will work with the school district on whatever needs they have and in whatever way they want.

While this may not be satisfactory to all I hope it addresses the concerns of some. I do understand the issues that the school district is facing. I do understand the concerns that parents feel across the district about losing schools and services. I will continue to work in the Legislature to not let our rural education system become a victim of cuts from the BC Liberal Government.

If you have any questions or concerns please feel free to contact me at the numbers listed below.

Katrine Conroy, MLA

Kootenay West