Sunday, November 3, 2013

Commentary

Drawing a Bead on Besler

School Board candidate/roofer under fire for myopic budget view

Submitted by Jennifer Woodroff, Chilliwack
 

was very interested to read the thoughts of our candidates for the upcoming School Trustee by-election. This seems a diverse and reasonably well-informed group.

 

I have to admit to being just a little taken aback by Mr. Besler's comments, as they were centred entirely on the budget. While budgeting is an important consideration, it must be pointed out that we are talking about something inestimably valuable in this instance: the education of children. In fact, Mr. Besler is the only candidate who focused entirely on the budget, with absolutely no mention of class sizes, completion rates, literacy, etc. Surely those matters concern him? Isn't that why he's running for the position of Trustee?


It's a little bothersome that Mr. Besler doesn't seem to grasp the connection between School District budgets and the provincial government he so aggressively supported in the May election (together with his Campaign Manager and most of those endorsing his “non-partisan” campaign). If Mr. Besler's primary concern is that the School District balance the budget, then why is he not at all concerned about the fact that the provincial government has repeatedly downloaded costs to the Districts and then, turned around and punished them for not meeting their budgets?

 

Last year, they even had the bald-faced cheek to fire every elected Trustee in Cowichan, replacing them with one Trustee (appointed by the Education Minister). Since that time, six elementary schools in Cowichan have closed and middle schools are now being eyed.


What is genuinely odd, though, is that the provincial government doesn't hold itself to the same standards. In fact, since 2009, the provincial government has quite blithely amended Balanced Budget legislation to accommodate its own excesses. At the same time, drilling credits owed to resource companies remain unrecorded (contrary to standard accounting practices), hiding massive debt, not unlike the case of the Hydro deferral accounts. It's possible to move numbers about in creative ways, but it's not possible to run from the inevitability of what has been wrought in our name and for which institutions like education and health are now being summarily fingered as responsible for.

 

When a government, in order to reward political donors, chokes off revenues by cutting taxes and deferring fees to those same donors, it has abandoned key public edifices and left them to starve. Perhaps that is the layer of “budgeting” Mr. Besler should properly direct his attention to.


While speaking in the familiarly vague generalities of “budgets” and “service delivery” (which have the widespread affect of dazzling those who aren't paying attention), Mr. Besler fails to mention the millions of dollars being extracted from School Districts in carbon offsets, payable to the Pacific Carbon Trust. If he is going to talk about budgets, efficiencies and effectiveness, perhaps the PCT should be his first target.


While I'm well aware of the rather paltry fund created by the provincial government to mitigate its looting of public education for the sake of the PCT, I am not at all moved. The fund is not evenly or even coherently applied. The Pacific Carbon Trust, now with a $30 million surplus, could very easily be called upon to release those funds to schools in need of retrofits. So why doesn't that happen? Are the “needs” of Encana and company more pressing than those of our students? 


Maybe if Mr. Besler wants to make things better for students in School District 33, he should do what many of us are already doing: demand that this government create conditions in which students have a chance to succeed by providing adequate funds for School District budgets to start with.

 

 

 

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