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‘Tough year’ ahead: union
Barely a week into the new school year New Westminster teachers are already expressing concerns about the effects budget cutbacks are having on their ability to teach.
Grant Osborne, the president of the New West teacher’s union, said a cut of $700,000 in school supplies and services is putting pressure on teachers to pay for things like copy paper, art materials, lab equipment and even sports equipment like balls out of their own pockets.
“We’ve hit a wall, and it’s a pretty big one,” said Osborne.
The reduction in money for supplies was part of a series of budget cuts approved by the board of education last May to deal with a projected $3.5-million shortfall in the 2013-14 school year.
Also chopped were 27 special education positions, and a vacant vice-principal’s position at New West secondary school isn’t being filled.
Osborne said while the final numbers are yet to be determined based on enrollment figures, teachers in the district are dealing with a budget for supplies that’s about 10 per cent of what they used to be able to spend.
“Teachers are very concerned how to deliver quality teaching,” said Osborne. “No matter how you cut it, it’s going to be tough year.”
Osborne said many teachers already spend hundreds of dollars of their own money each year on classroom supplies for their students, but that’s just a band-aid solution that masks the depth of the problem.
“They’re frustrated,” said Osborne. “They’re caught between a rock and a hard place. If they continue to pay for supplies then the message doesn’t get through that we’re underfunded.”
Osborne said his union is working with the school board and other partners, like parents and local businesses, to come up with a solution. But until that’s found, teachers are being judicious about how they dole out supplies.
“When supplies are gone, they’re gone,” said Osborne.