It’s a time-worn tradition for the party in power, in the months leading up to an election, to give away or re-announce a whole bunch of money for stuff.
Usually the sudden pot of money that seems to be available for a whole host of popular things was accrued through previous years of cuts and fee increases. And it’s all our money. But we’re supposed to forget about all that bad stuff now that a little bit of it is being given back. This includes a new fund (the Rural Education Enhancement Fund) created to help keep rural schools open. It comes after more than a decade of school closures enforced by the provincial government through strict no-deficit laws that left school boards no choice but to make the terrible decisions to close beloved community schools, most of them in small, rural areas.
All of a sudden, after months of meetings and public discussions in two South Okanagan school districts, the government is paying attention to the outcry of parents, students and closely watching school board decisions. The answer from many of the MLA’s in these affected areas, when looking at the press releases from each one that followed the announcement, is that they were working hard behind the scenes on finding a solution. But, let’s not forget all of the caveats tied to the Rural Education Enhancement Fund.
To qualify, schools must be in a community of no more than 15,000, the closure would eliminate specific grades within the community and, significantly, closures due to the condition of the school building or extreme enrolment decline are not included. It is significantly likely that many of the schools in question, across the province, are all older buildings, and so attrition will get rid of a lot of them, as the structures deteriorate through lack of maintenance money.
Then of course there’s the fact that declining enrolment is why most schools are slated for closure. What constitutes “extreme?”
It’s not just cynicism rearing its head when we suggest people take a critical look at political pronouncements from now until next fall.