Victoria school music cuts: Board passes controversial budget

The Greater Victoria School Board has finalized some tough decisions.

At the council’s third and final budget reading Thursday night, members preserved 80% of middle school music programming, but made significant cuts to the elementary school music program.

It was a decision that infuriated parents and students.

The school board says it has had to contend with flat enrollment numbers, inflation and COVID-19 costs, resulting in a $7.2 million shortfall this year.

As a result, funding for the ropes program was eliminated for all elementary schools.

The board also cut college music funding by 20%.

One of the main purposes of the $268 million budget was to spare school counselors from severe cuts.

Seven positions were on the chopping block, but the board decided to save them all as mental health has become a key issue during the pandemic.

Still, the reaction to the music cuts has reached a crescendo.

“The music program keeps kids in school, keeps them interested, makes school fun, and kids learn better if they’re happy,” says Dan del Villano, an avid parent whose children attend music programs. music in public schools.

“If you cut primary and secondary levels, you end up choking off secondary levels.”

Millie del Villano, a grade 12 student at Reynolds Secondary, has been involved in school music programs for a decade.

“I am outraged by their decision,” she said. “(Music) was the reason I showed up to school in the mornings and it’s the reason so many other kids show up.”

Board Chairman Ryan Painter says budget decisions are not taken lightly.

“The reality is that the province does not fund school districts to deliver music programs. so if it’s something offered outside of normal hours, it’s up to the district to fund. It’s just unsustainable,” says Painter.

“So ultimately we have to find a way to balance the desire and demand for music education in the school district with a sustainable funding model, and I think the work is still ahead. I know our board and I know our district is focused on finding a way to make it happen.

On Friday afternoon, outside the school board office, dozens of music students staged a school strike to protest the board’s decision.

Parents and students say the fight is not over and they will continue to defend music programs in Greater Victoria schools.

A summary document produced by the Greater Victoria School District outlines the following key decisions made during budget deliberations:

  • The board is allocating a surplus of $2.3 million from the current school year, or $1.5 million more than planned.
  • The council plans to use $1.4 million in local capital from the land disposition to purchase assets that would otherwise have been purchased from its operating fund.
  • The administration of the council office is reduced by $427,000. This includes the reduction of an associate superintendent, director or assistant director and a human resources position in the Tolmie board office.
  • The board maintains the seven JPC advisers under contract. It was initially proposed to let the contracts for these positions expire. Instead, two contract outreach workers funded through Community LINK will be reduced.
  • The council is implementing a 50% reduction in the number of day caretakers at the elementary and intermediate levels.
  • Career Center Coordinators are not reduced. Instead, a block of Career Center teacher instruction from each high school will be reduced.
  • There is a one-time cut to the school supply allocation of $800,000, calling on schools to use school deferrals instead to bolster their budgets.
  • Based on historical trends, there are teacher assistant positions that are not being replaced. The board is cutting EA’s relief budget, resulting in savings of $620,000 based on these trends.
  • Collaborative time used by schools for teachers and other staff to collaborate on initiatives, school goals, and other projections is interrupted. This will save nearly $560,000.
  • The district will go from five district-wide late French immersion classrooms to four classrooms, for a savings of $115,560.

Additional information on the budget is available at neighborhood website.

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