school districts 

The Howe Sound School District will maintain its boundaries and not be amalgamated with any other school district. Five months after former education minister Art Charbonneau announced plans to cut the number of school districts in the province in half the concerns of many education people in 41 school districts were put to rest Tuesday. Current Education Minister Paul Ramsey announced Tuesday that the boundaries of 41 school districts, including Howe Sound and all districts in the Lower Mainland, would not change. The remaining 34 districts are to become amalgamated into 16 new districts. The decision came four days after Ramsey received a report from the Public Education Restructuring Committee. He acted on most of the report’s recommendations. Ramsey said the restructuring will save the ministry $120 million over the next four years. When Charbonneau announced plans to cut the number of districts in half he said the restructuring would save $30 million a year, a savings made necessary by reduced federal transfer payments. He said he expected districts to find these savings by "eliminating duplication, streamlining service delivery and cutting waste and inefficiency." He also announced reduced funding for special education. He suggested amalgamated school districts could save money by sharing the services of special educators. That was one of the concerns the Howe Sound School District had with its proposed amalgamation with the Sunshine Coast and Powell River districts: it would take staff and trustees a whole day to get across the district due to geographic constraints. But on Tuesday Ramsey said he was in agreement with the restructuring committee on the need to protect funding for special needs and aboriginal programs and restructuring would not affect those programs. On Wednesday Premier Glen Clark announced school funding would be increase by $64.5 million this year. He said the increase was made possible by "system-wide efficiencies and cost-cutting in other areas of government," even though federal transfer payments are still being reduced. Clark also announced this year’s per-pupil grant to school districts will be maintained at the 1995-96 level of $5,827.

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