Rachelle Stein-Wotten

Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Gabriola Sounder

The Nanaimo Ladysmith Public Schools board has sent a letter to the minister of education and child care to request compensation for addressing pay equity gaps earlier than provincially required.

The Aug. 21 letter from board chair Greg Keller follows up on one written in 2021 by then-chair Charlene McKay asking for the pay equity special grant, a fund to reduce pay differentials between traditionally male and female jobs in the school system and delivered to school districts, be rolled into the operating funding block so that districts like Nanaimo Ladysmith receive more funding.

The letters note that the 2018 report from the seven-member Independent Funding Model Review Panel, which was tasked with reviewing and providing recommendations to the way funding is allocated in B.C.’s K-12 public education sector, also recommended adding the grant to the operating block.

“…Our district’s progressive actions resulted in early compliance with pay equity principles, as early as 1992,” the open letter from Keller says. “Unfortunately, this led to an inequitable funding situation, where our district received a disproportionately lower amount of pay equity funds compared to other districts. Over the past two decades, this funding disparity has amounted to tens of millions of dollars in lost funding for the students of Nanaimo-Ladysmith.”

The letter specifically requests an adjustment to the school district’s pay equity supplement “to reflect the true cost of implementing pay equity as of 1998,” or funding at the provincial average of the supplements received by all districts based on full-time equivalent enrolment. NLPS has said in 2021 its pay equity special grant amounted to 0.0012 per cent of what it receives for its operating grant while other districts receive as much as 2 per cent.

At the June 28 board meeting when the board voted for the chair to write a followup letter to the minister of education and child care, Rachna Singh, Trustee Tania Brzovic said, “I think it’s frustrating and unfair and frankly demoralizing to see us essentially being punished for our forethought and commitment to our staff; to see other districts receiving these funds and us not receiving because we were a little ahead of the curve, it’s just a matter of fairness.”

The province began requiring a pay equity transition in the public education sector from 1998 to 2003 and provided grants to do so. NLPS said it began the transition in the early ’90s and therefore did not receive support for what it had implemented prior to 1998.

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