mp funding 

By Loreth Beswetherick It’s a case of Cadillac taxes with Chevy service for Whistler’s elementary school pupils. Myrtle Philip Community School principal Bob Daly said the school needs an additional $40,000 in operating funds to continue to provide the basic service B.C. parents and students expect — like text books. But, unless something is done to change the school district funding formula adopted when the board voted for a decentralized budgeting system last year, it doesn’t look like the school is going to get the money. Daly told parents and teachers attending the Parent Advisory Council meeting Tuesday the $40,000 would address needs only for this year. "When I say it takes $133,000 to run our school, I mean it," said Daly. "We have parents buying entire sets of books for classrooms and I think that’s sick," said teacher Sharon Broatch. Parent Lianne Niewerth said last year parents raised funds to buy readers. Myrtle Philip is the fastest-growing school in the district. At 540 students, including those in the Francophone program, it has the most pupils in district 48, but due to anomalies tied in with size and rapid growth, the school is left with the smallest operating budget per capita. Teachers and the PAC are saying the formula used to distribute funds is not working in Myrtle Philip’s case. Teacher Suzie McCance said special funding consideration should be given to the fact Myrtle Philip continually has to set up so many new classrooms and open new divisions. The funding formula provides $6,000 for new classes but PAC members say that only covers desks, not other essentials like books. School District 48 superintendent Mike Fitzpatrick was at the meeting to explain the funding formula. He said the formula is equitable and that Myrtle Philip’s problem could be a spending one, not a funding one. He said each school basically gets the same amount of cash per pupil. Fitzpatrick implied Myrtle Philip was richly staffed with smaller sized classes compared to other schools. Myrtle Philip has 25 teachers plus administration staff and that, said vice principal Nick Pascuzzi, is in the ballpark compared to other schools. The PAC pointed out other schools in the district can maximize class sizes and still adhere to the 23-pupils-per-class maximum, as per the teachers’ collective agreement, by bumping latecomers to other schools in the community. Pemberton for example, had to bump some students back to Blackwater and Squamish transferred students to schools throughout the community. Myrtle Philip, being the only elementary school in the area, is not in a position to do this. Daly said last year an additional 25 students arrived throughout the school year. Maxed-out classes wouldn’t allow for this traditional influx through the year. The PAC also noted schools with under 400 pupils get special grants on a sliding scale, with a set dollar allocation per pupil under 400. As one parent said, Myrtle Philip is actually two smaller schools in one while the community waits for construction to start on the new Whistler South school. Fitzpatrick said the board is looking at the formula. "We knew there would be some problems the first year and we knew that every year there would be some schools with some bumps." However, he said he still feels the formula is fair and he is loath to tinker with it. He said any changes would have to be voted on by the 12 other principals and some may squeal about changes that could see them left with less cash. The PAC noted, however, other schools ended up with operating budget surpluses last year. Under the old system, that extra cash would have gone back into the pot to be shared by all. Fitzpatrick said the board has already helped Myrtle Philip this year by providing additional resources to the tune of $130,000 for two new teachers. One parent pointed out Whistler coughs up in the region of 87 per cent of the tax funding for the school district with its high property values, yet the community provides about 9 per cent of the pupils in the district. "We are not asking for more than the others. We just want the same as what other schools are getting." Fitzpatrick said the issue will be addressed at the next principals’ meeting but he made no promises. He said there is no more cash in the district pie. Daly will report back on any progress at the next PAC meeting, scheduled for Nov. 9.

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