Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Gabriola Sounder
The Ministry of Education and Child Care is not agreeing to Nanaimo Ladysmith Public Schools and other districts’ request to readjust the pay equity supplements it delivers.
NLPS board Chair Greg Keller sent a letter to the minister of education and child care, Rachna Singh, in August to request compensation for the school district addressing pay equity gaps earlier than provincially required, a followup letter to one then-chair Charlene McKay wrote in 2021 on the same subject.
The Sept. 1 three-paragraph response from deputy minister of education and child care, Christina Zacharuk, acknowledges “progressive employers received minimal or no funding, while those with historical inequities received more” in pay equity grants and notes the funding was not “initially dependent on size of workforce or student population.
“In 2005, the provincial government, CUPE and BCSPEA [BC Public School Employers’ Association] entered into a letter of agreement that provides for the necessary funding to pay for the achievement of the targeted pay equity wage rates as outlined in pay equity plans that were approved by the Public Sector Employers’ Council.”
The letter from Keller states the school district began introducing pay equity in 1992. “Unfortunately, this led to an inequitable funding situation, where our district received a disproportionately lower amount of pay equity funds compared to other districts,” Keller wrote. “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 requested 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. NLPS also requested the pay equity grant be rolled into the operating grant block, one of the recommendations included in the 2018 report from the Independent Funding Model Review Panel, a seven-member group that was tasked with reviewing and providing recommendations to the way funding is allocated in B.C.’s K-12 public education sector. NLPS asserts this change would result in the district receiving more funding.
Zacharuk’s response says the B.C. government “has paused the implementation of these recommendations and will review the path forward at an appropriate time in the future.”
“Are they just basically brushing us off?” NLPS Trustee Tania Brzovic queried at the school board’s Sept. 27 meeting. I suppose it is the thank you but we’re not going to do something,” Secretary-Treasurer Mark Walsh responded. Walsh said staff are communicating with other districts in a similar situation to NLPS including Campbell River, Abbotsford and Vernon. “I don’t think it’s completely closed yet; I don’t suspect we’ll see a change for the next budget, but I don’t see it as something that can’t be addressed.”
Keller said that by receiving a response from the deputy minster “at least it raised awareness. I’m hopeful for the future; we’ll just have to keep on this.”
Long time Gabriola resident Henry Goyert passed away in Victoria on May 6th at 97. Born in Berlin in 1924, he came to Canada in 1952 where he and his family eventually made their home in Kitimat BC. He retired to Gabriola in 1980 after spending summers there in the house he and his wife Dorothy built. Henry lived a long and fascinating life. He will be remembered by those who knew him as a gracious, fun-loving gentleman who loved Gabriola Island. He was a consummate story teller and looked for fun in everything he did. Although dementia diminished him in the last few years the essence of his personality and sense of humour stayed with him.
He is survived by his two sons, Peter (Jill) and Thomas (Cindy), his long-time close friend and partner Ann, grandchildren Josh, Stephanie and Michael as well as three great grandchildren, Jack, Sam and Zoe. He was predeceased by his wife Dorothy and grandson Ben.