VERNON - Vernon’s MLA is standing by comments he made about cuts to school bus routes after getting slammed by the NDP’s education critic this week.
A number of bus routes were cut in the Vernon School District this year, leading parents to speak out in protest. The decision was the result of funding cuts from the provincial government, acting secretary-treasurer Adrian Johnson said in July.
For his part, Vernon-Monashee MLA Eric Foster says it’s up to the school district to decide how money is spent, and that concerned parents need to take the issue up with the district, not him.
That stance sparked harsh words from Rob Fleming, the NDP’s spokesperson for education, this week.
“Mr. Foster is plain wrong to tell his constituents — parents and kids — that cuts to school bus service has nothing to do with his government. The fact is, this cut has everything to do with the B.C. Liberals slashing $54 million from school districts from the provincial budget,” Fleming said in a statement released Tuesday, Oct. 27.
In response to the statement, Foster says the province funds the school district, but the school district decides how to allocate those funds.
“When it comes to where the money is spent, as far as operations go, it’s up to the school district what they want to do with it,” he says.
Asked if the root cause of the bus cuts stemmed from a reduction in provincial government funding, Foster says while school districts were asked to come up with $54 million in administrative savings, the teacher’s contract has infused $421 million into the system over the next three years.
“We’ve increased funding to the school district by almost a billion-and-a-half dollars since we took over,” Foster says. “Mr. Fleming’s math is off, but that’s politics.”
With increased enrolment this year, Foster says, the Vernon School District will be seeing a bump in funding to use as it sees fit. He adds that bussing services are not mandatory under the school act, and says some districts have gone to a user fee system.
“Change is tough, I understand where folks are coming from when they say there’s always been bussing and that’s tough, I accept that,” Foster says.
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