Premier Clark comments on commitment to rural schools

Premier Christy Clark said the province is committed to its new understanding of the importance of schools in rural communities.

Penticton MLA Dan Ashton (right) with Premier Christy Clark at an event in Penticton on Tuesday. Clark said the province is committed to keep rural schools open.

Penticton MLA Dan Ashton (right) with Premier Christy Clark at an event in Penticton on Tuesday. Clark said the province is committed to keep rural schools open.

Premier Christy Clark said the province is committed to its new understanding of the importance of schools in rural communities.

“We are committed to growing rural economies in B.C. We want to reverse this flow to urban communities,” said Clark. “They (rural communities) have a lot of trouble growing again if their school has been closed. We should try to keep more of those schools open.”

Clark said the funding provided by the Rural Education Enhancement Fund, which allowed Trout Creek and West Bench Elementary to keep operating, is permanent. (Read more on Trout Creek and West Bench Elementary HERE).

“The funding formula works in most places, but the problem is that in smaller rural communities where there aren’t other schools nearby, it doesn’t always work,” said Clark, laying the decision to close schools on local school boards.

“School boards sometimes make decisions that meet their bottom line, but they don’t always serve their community,” said Clark.

Linda Van Alphen, chair of the Okanagan Skaha School District board, said all they were doing was responding to the strictures placed on them by the province and the Ministry of Education: a fixed, and shrinking budget that has to be balanced along with demands from the ministry to build the enrolment in schools, to make sure they are operating closer to capacity.

“They have not backed away from that. We had a communication just a few days ago, that they are still expecting us to fill our schools,” said Van Alphen. “I just feel that people have got to start shouting from the rooftops that this is not political, it is about kids and it is about something that was mandated for the school board.”

Van Alphen was also concerned by Clark placing the credit for keeping the rural schools open on Penticton MLA Dan Ashton and other politicians.

“Dan persuaded me that we needed to approach rural schools in a different way,” said Clark. “Local people made their voice heard and it was clear that the school board wasn’t responding, that was when Dan Ashton stepped in.

“He knew that this community needed somebody to stand up for it.”

Van Alphen, however, looks at long months of the school trustees examining every alternative before deciding to close schools and the work done by the parents.

“We are certainly happy for the funding, but I don’t think the Premier has taken any consideration for the amount of time that parents, trustees and senior staff had put into not only the school closure process, but the application process,” said Van Alphen. “She was making it sound like it was just one or two people that got the job done, and I felt very badly, especially for the parents, because they have been the strongest voices.”

While Clark said the fund is permanent, Boundary-Similkameen MLA Linda Larson is heading up a rural schools advisory committee to examine the funding problem.

“Really, we need to figure out a better formula, a more permanent formula for funding it,” said Clark. “In terms of the broader funding formula, I think her work is going to tell us whether we need to do more work on the big funding formula.”

Just Posted

Lightning in Kelowna, B.C. (Contributed)
Severe thunderstorm watch in effect for Okanagan

Conditions are favourable for the development of severe thunderstorms overnight

Justin Fotherby,17, and Ashley McMillan, 17 have been chosen for an invitation only competition that sees 20 of Canada’s top swimmers per event vying for a spot at the upcoming 2021 Tokyo Olympic Games. (Submitted)
Penticton swimmers off to Olympic trials

The pair are eyeing a spot on the Canadian team heading to the Tokyo Olympics

Bentley resting on a bench at Kal Park in Vernon not knowing there is a baby rattlesnake curled up below. Bentley jumped down and was bit by the snake. (Facebook)
Dog bit by baby rattler at popular Vernon park

The rattlesnake was hidden underneath a park bench when it struck out

Renderings of what the skating rink could look like beside City Hall between Martin and Main in downtown Penticton. (Activate Penticton image)
Outdoor skating rink back at Penticton council

City staff recommend going forward with rink which could host 2022 BCHL’s 60th year celebration

Longtime SOWINS volunteer Diane Fru (far left) walks with members of her family as they Walk To End Abuse Sunday, June 13, 2021. South Okanagan Women In Needs Society (SOWINS) raised a record amount this year. (Monique Tamminga Western News)
Walk to End Abuse in South Okanagan breaks fundraising record

More than $53,000 raised so far while the pandemic has increased need for SOWINS’ services

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participates in a plenary session at the G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, England on Friday June 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada donating 13M surplus COVID-19 vaccine doses to poor countries

Trudeau says the government will pay for 87 million shots to be distributed to poor countries

Cruise ship passengers arrive at Juneau, Alaska in 2018. Cruise lines have begun booking passengers for trips from Seattle to Alaska as early as this July, bypassing B.C. ports that are not allowed to have visitors until March 2022 under a Canadian COVID-19 restrictions. (Michael Penn/Juneau Empire)
B.C. doesn’t depend on U.S. law to attract cruise ships, Horgan says

Provinces to get update next week on Canada’s border closure

This undated photo provided by Girl Scouts of New Mexico Trails shows a scout donating cookies to firefighters in Rio Rancho, New Mexico, as part of the Hometown Heroes program. As the coronavirus pandemic wore into the spring selling season, many Girl Scout troops nixed their traditional cookie booths for safety reasons. That resulted in millions of boxes of unsold cookies. (Girl Scouts of New Mexico Trails via AP)
Thinner Mints: Girl Scouts have millions of unsold cookies

Since majority of cookies are sold in-person, pandemic made the shortfall expected

In this artist’s sketch, Nathaniel Veltman makes a video court appearance in London, Ont., on June 10, 2021 as Justice of the Peace Robert Seneshen (top left) and lawyer Alayna Jay look on. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Alexandra Newbould
Terror charges laid against London attack suspect

Crown says Nathaniel Veltman’s four counts of first-degree murder constitute an act of terrorism

Premier John Horgan speaks as provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, right, and health minister Adrian Dix look on during a press conference to update on the province’s fall pandemic preparedness plan during a press conference from the press theatre at Legislature in Victoria, Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. officials to provide details on Step 2 of COVID reopening plan Monday

Step 2 could allow for larger gatherings and a resumption of recreational travel

Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller is seen during a news conference, Wednesday May 19, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Indigenous child-welfare battle heads to court despite calls for Ottawa to drop cases

Feds are poised to argue against two Canadian Human Rights Tribunal rulings

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod laughs while playing with Lucky the puppy outside their Chilliwack home on Thursday, June 10, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: B.C. family finds ‘perfect’ puppy with limb difference for 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy has special bond with Lucky the puppy who was also born with limb difference

A million-dollar ticket was sold to an individual in Vernon from the Lotto Max draw Friday, June 11, 2021. (Photo courtesy of BCLC)
Lottery ticket worth $1 million sold in Vernon

One lucky individual holds one of 20 tickets worth $1 million from Friday’s Lotto Max draw

Most Read