VICTORIA – It looks like the students’ musical messages of protest have been heard and the college music programs in the Greater Victoria School District will be saved, at least for another year.
“We have removed those music cuts and preserved as much as possible,” said Jordan Watters, chairman of the Greater Victoria Board of Education following a school district meeting Wednesday night.
However, no vote has yet taken place. The meeting was adjourned Wednesday evening and a vote is expected to take place Thursday evening. What the board has agreed to is find other areas to cut, close its $ 7 million deficit, and avoid classroom cuts as much as possible.
“It appears the board is interested in tapping into our reserves in order to preserve as much funding as possible in the classroom,” Watters said.
The board faced intense opposition to the proposed cuts from students, teachers and parents.
“It was a wake-up call for me that I wasn’t involved earlier than this year,” said Karin Kwan, parent and advocate for music programs at the school.
Parents like Kwan joined the fight against the proposed cuts in April. Kwan’s concern, however, is that if Thursday’s vote does indeed save music programming, it might only be temporary.
“I actually think it could be a new conversation next year, so more funding is needed here,” she said. “We have to talk about it.”
The local teachers’ association shares the same concerns.
“Yes, we’re definitely going to have the same conversation next year,” said Winona Waldron, president of the Greater Victoria Teachers Association.
Waldron says British Columbia has the second lowest per pupil funding of any province in Canada, leaving school districts strapped for cash.
“Basically this is a pot of money that doesn’t go far enough,” said Waldron. “Education is good for society and we should invest in it.”
The province said in a statement Thursday that it is investing in education and says funding per student has increased 18% in the past four years.
In the meantime, the Greater Victoria School District says it has dipped into its savings year after year to pay for programming, and is now at the end of its savings.
“We’re looking at a deficit next year probably around $ 7 or $ 8 million,” Watters said.
“The year after, probably around $ 10 million,” she said.
Nothing was written until Thursday night’s vote was blocked, but it looks like the music programs will survive at least another year.