School closures draw critic

Rob Fleming, NDP education critic, will be in Armstrong and Salmon Arm Thursday

The future of North Okanagan-Shuswap schools is dominating provincial politics.

Rob Fleming, NDP education critic, will be in Armstrong and Salmon Arm Thursday to meet with parents concerned about the possible closure of Armstrong and Silver Creek elementary schools.

“Christy Clark’s government is starving our school system,” said Fleming in a release.

“To date, 200 schools in this province have closed on this government’s watch. It’s unprecedented, and it’s baffling when provincial student enrolment is actually growing.”

Fleming adds that over the last two years, the provincial government forced cuts of $54 million in administrative spending and that is leading school districts to take extreme actions like shutting down schools.

“Christy Clark completely ignored the bipartisan finance committee when it recommended ‘stable, sustainable and adequate funding’ for school districts. Instead, she put a billion dollars into tax cuts for millionaires, while continuing to cut $54 million out of school district budgets. That’s not stable, sustainable or adequate, and our kids deserve better.”

However, Shuswap’s MLA defends the actions of the Liberal government.

“With the school district since the early 2000s, enrolment has been down 30 per cent. But also since then, funding on a per pupil basis has risen 47 per cent,” said Greg Kyllo.

“We are proud to have a world-class education system in B.C.”

Kyllo says he has discussed the local state of education with parents.

“Given the potential closure of schools or cutting programs, parents say it’s important to focus on programs,” he said.

And while he says he understands the challenges facing school districts, particularly because of enrolment, he insists that provincial government’s role is to provide funding and not to interfere with operations.

“Decisions made at the local level are the best decisions.”