Vulnerable Surrey students treated like ‘second-class citizens’

Board of education requests $2-million grant to address longtime CommunityLINK funding inequity.

Surrey Board of Education chairperson Laurae McNally.

Vulnerable students and their families are being treated like “second-class citizens,” says Surrey’s Board of Education, which is asking for a one-time, $2-million grant to compensate for a flawed funding formula that has seen local kids shortchanged for more than a decade.

In one of its most strongly worded statements of late, the local school board says that despite repeated assurances from the last five Liberal education ministers, the government has “refused to change” the CommunityLINK funding formula.

CommunityLINK helps pay for things such as meals for low income students, initiatives at inner-city schools, counselling for at-risk children and youth, and community schools partnerships that run after-school programs.

The Surrey School District is B.C.’s largest with more than 12 per cent of the province’s total public school enrolment, but on a per student basis, only receives a fraction of the CommunityLINK funding provided many other districts.

For example, while Vancouver, which is smaller than Surrey, receives about $8.7 million annually, Surrey gets about $3.7 million. Victoria, with a third the number of students, receives about the same amount as Surrey.

This year, it’s estimated about $400,000 will have to be taken from Surrey’s general operating budget to supplement the school meal program alone.

Laurae McNally, chair of the board of education, says the government should be ashamed and is calling on the Liberals to make good on its promise to make families a priority.

“We believe it is fair and reasonable to ask the provincial government to provide our district a one-time grant of $2 million to put families first and ensure our students will not have to bear the brunt of yet another year of CommunityLINK funding inequity,” says McNally. “This one-time grant assumes the government will act to address the inequity in time for the following school year.”