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HELSTON: Province left school trustees to play bad cop before saving the day

Charlotte Helston is the Vernon reporter for InfoNews.
June 17, 2016 - 2:25 PM



It’s kind of how things played out with the province, school districts and the public over the past few days — and years. Earlier this week, the provincial government announced funding to keep some rural schools open. The news came after many months of unrest in communities across the Okanagan, and B.C., during which school trustees tried to do their best with limited dollars and cents. The province watched for a long time as trustees endured blow after blow from distressed parents before they swooped in and announced they found a way to keep schools open. Hurrah. 

It’s like a game of good cop, bad cop. After using school boards as a political punching bag for months, the province comes in with polished press releases and coordinated photo-ops to save the day at the eleventh hour.

It’s great that funding for rural schools is available, but I can’t look at the province and call it a hero for simply doing something it should have done a long time ago. Oh yeah, and this comes just after they tooted their own horns for announcing $25 million in redirected funding for schools. That was money they actually ordered school districts to cut in the first place, and then gave back.

It seems that instead of working with school districts and listening to their pleas for more sufficient funding, it just undermines them. I hope these latest announcements are not for political purposes, but there is an election coming up and I can’t help but feel a little bit cynical. I have to wonder, why did it take so long, and take so much animosity in communities, to finally get some action from the province?

School districts and the provincial government should be working together as a team. Just imagine how much more school boards could accomplish if they weren’t constantly doing damage control.

One of our readers put it pretty well when she commented, “How about just regular funding, all year, every year?”

Money for rural schools is a start, but it’s not going to solve everything — and with one of the eligible schools, Yahk Elementary near Creston, only having three students in it, I have some reservations about how it will work at all.

Lack of adequate funding is something one trustee from the North Okanagan-Shuswap’s fired board of education says was at the root of their problems.

“We were sort of falling apart because we were given such an impossible job,” she said.

Deciding what gets kept and what gets cut in something as emotionally-charged as our school system is a tough job to start with. When the very powers that force your hand suddenly show up with palms filled with cash, I can only imagine the job truly does feel impossible. 

— Charlotte Helston is the Vernon reporter for 

News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2016
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