Surrey school meal programs suffering

Trustees again urge province to provide sufficient funding.

Ijaz Chatha

Surrey school trustees are once again hoping to draw the provincial government’s attention to the fact that children in need are continuing to go without food at school.

In a motion presented at Thursday’s public board meeting, Trustee Ijaz Chatha said Community Link funding remains insufficient to support the district’s school meal program.

“It is difficult for hungry children to concentrate in class,” he said. “The school meal program is an extremely valuable support for vulnerable children and should be available to all children who need it.”

Community Link funding comes from the province and pays for things such as lunch programs for low income students, special programs at inner-city schools and counseling for at-risk children and youth.

In the spring, Surrey school trustees slammed the province for the unfair funding formula, and tabled a formal motion about the funding then, as well.

On Thursday, Chatha once again pointed out that Surrey, the largest school district in B.C., receives less than one-third of what Vancouver gets, but has at least 10,000 more students.

The discrepancy has been brought to the attention of – and acknowledged by – several education ministers over the years, but no corrections have ever been made.

“The funding formula hasn’t changed for more than a decade,” Chatha said in his motion.

He was backed by fellow trustees, who agreed to request yet another meeting with the ministers of education and finance to demand the Community Link funding formula be revised prior to the 2012 provincial budget.

• Meanwhile, the Surrey Board of Education continues to fight for capital funding. As has become an annual tradition of sorts, Trustee Terry Allen presented a motion Thursday to request to meet with the province about the lack of school building money for Surrey. Despite the number of students climbing by about 1,000 annually, no new capital money (except for that allocated to all-day kindergarten) as been allocated since 2005.

By the numbers:

Community Link Funding

Per Student (total district enrolment)

• New Westminster – $219.33 (6,100)

• Victoria – $200.57 (20,000)

• Vancouver – $159.19 (56,000)

• Surrey – $58.47 (69,145)