The Vancouver School Board have rejected their own proposed budget tonight, setting up a contentious showdown with a provincial government that has ordered millions of dollars in cuts.
Green Party school trustee Janet Fraser was the deciding vote, dramatically revealing during a speech during tonight’s meeting she would oppose the budget, which has $24 million in cuts.
Her vote, combined with the previously announced decision by the four Vision Vancouver school trustees to oppose the budget, ensured its defeat.
The four NPA school trustees voted for the budget.
Among the suggested cuts in the budget were allowing more than 30 students in some classrooms, eliminating the optional band and strings program at the elementary level, and additional staff and teacher cuts.
Declining enrolment and the high cost of upgrading and replacing aging school buildings gets some of the blame, but the board says the provincial government needs to spend more on education.
WATCH: B.C. Education Minister Mike Bernier, Vision Vancouver school trustee Patti Bacchus and NPA school trustee Stacy Robertson explain the fallout from Thursday’s vote
The last time the Vancouver School Board rejected a budget was in 1985, when they also rejected proposed cuts to balance the budget.
Then, the Social Credit government of the day fired the trustees. In a statement, Education Minister Mike Bernier said he was “disappointed” in the trustees.
Speaking to Global News, Bernier said he has not made a final decision around firing the board since there “are other opportunities that we have.”
“The board still has the chance to make a decision in the best interest of students before the June 30 deadline to deliver its balanced final budget,” he wrote.
“Right now there is $37 million a year in Vancouver that should be going to essential classroom services that past boards have instead chosen to invest in heating and maintaining empty spaces in classrooms. Today’s failure continues this sad trend in Vancouver.”
Bernier cites last year as an example saying, “the same scenario happened where they projected a $17 million budget and what we did last year was sent in Ernst and Young to do an audit to look at actually where the opportunities were to have savings.”
Following this vote, Bernier said some of the things he would be looking at is why after last year, and all the recommendations that were given to the district “to help them and guide them into good decision-making — why a lot of those recommendations were not acted upon.”
The education minister said he hopes to sit down the board chair as early as next week.