School District No. 8 (Kootenay Lake) had courage to tell ministry it has no funds for CUPE raises

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To the Editor:

When I heard through the media that the Ministry of Education had awarded a salary increase to school district CUPE workers, I was pleased for them. These employees do a fantastic job maintaining our schools and keeping them clean, in spite of the fact that over the years many positions have been cut and the workload increased so that our district board can continue to provide basic educational programs for our children.

When I later heard that school districts were expected to pay, out of existing budgets, for the raises that government awarded, was I surprised? Not too much. Though ministry officials will proclaim their annual increases in educational budgets, they fail to mention that increases do not keep up to the rise in inflation, so in fact budgets are continuously decreasing in the services they can provide. School districts have been struggling to maintain basic services for decades, and in fact have had to cut many corners in maintaining structural integrity of buildings and equipment. It’s no picnic for trustees struggling to keep the system functioning. This was a major factor leading to my own decision leave trusteeship after 12 years of service.

It was with sincere admiration and pride that I listened to the news of the current board of trustees of School District No. 8 (Kootenay Lake) having the courage to inform the ministry that no, we have no place to find the money to pay for the increases granted to CUPE without damage to the educational programs we are committed to provide.

You have done yourself proud, and I am sure you are the envy of most of the school districts in the province, which would have liked to taken the stand you have but did not quite have the gumption to do so. What you have said desperately needed saying, and I hope it provides the spark for other boards to become more forthright.

On this occasion, I truly miss being with you.

Bob Ewashen