It’s decision day for the Vancouver School Board.
The VSB will vote tonight on the proposed budget for next year, facing a $24-million dollar shortfall and a number of cuts.
Chair Mike Lombardi has already been on the record saying he will be voting no, adding days of consultations with parents have only reinforced his decision.
“We spent five nights, 15 hours, 140 submissions and delegations, and I’ve answered hundreds of e-mails and the feedback is very, very clear: ‘We value the world class system we’ve got in Vancouver, these programs and service cuts are not going to lead us to better education for our kids, we want you to stand up and oppose the budget’.”
Lombardi has said he will vote no, even if it means it costs him his job.
“That’s a decision for the Minister of Education. The Minister has a number of options whenever a board does not submit a balanced budget, that being one of them. But that’s a decision for the Minister.”
Other Vision Vancouver trustees — Joy Alexander, Patti Bacchus, and Alan Wong, share his sentiment.
NPA trustee Stacy Robertson says he hasn’t decided yet.
The deciding vote may come down to Green party trustee Janet Fraser, caught between the four Vision and four NPA trustees.
“I’m going to make my decision based on what’s best for our students, I’m sure every trustee will do that. I think I’m hearing a very different message from a large number of people in Vancouver and I’m trying to put that together with my thoughts about what are the consequences for our students, for voting to either approve the budget or against the balanced budget.”
Fraser says she’s been in a similar position before, but admits this decision will be a little more intense.
“Do some soul searching”, says Education Minister
Education Minister Mike Bernier says he’s prepared to fire the school board if they don’t table a balanced budget but…
“It shouldn’t come to that. I’m hoping the Board will do the right thing for the students of Vancouver and pass a balanced budget and make sure programs are enhanced in Vancouver rather than empty classrooms.”
He is looking for the Board to table a budget, and says he hopes the VSB think long and hard about their decision.
“Do some soul searching and realize that in the past years, they have refused to make tough decisions. Unfortunately I think that’s ramped up this year where it’s going to be an even tougher decision. But I’m hoping they’re going to do the right thing.”
Bernier was also fuming that Lombardi had publicly declared he was willing to lose his job over tonight’s vote.
“He’s supposed to be representing and speaking the will of the board and in fact if you look historically this is just the typical trend of the Vision board year over year where they’ve come out publicly and basically told people they were going to cut programs rather than making the decisions in order to get the community riled up.”
Bernier says he’s prepared to fire the Vancouver School Board if a balanced budget isn’t tabled, but adds he hopes it doesn’t come to that.
CKNW will bring the results live when they come in.