Education minister says VSB more into ‘playing politics’ rather than education

Click to play video: 'VSB vs. Victoria again'
VSB vs. Victoria again
WATCH: The Vancouver School Board has once again escalated the dispute with the BC government over its funding deficit – Jun 30, 2016

A full review and forensic audit of the Vancouver School Board will be launched following the board’s decision Wednesday night to reject a Ministry of Education proposal to partially address the board’s $21.8-million shortfall by selling the Kingsgate Mall.

Education Minister Mike Bernier made the announcement this morning saying while he was disappointed in the VSB’s decision to “play politics,” he would, nonetheless, not be firing the board.

“Parents and students in Vancouver need certainty that every available dollar is going to services to students and not into political agendas and empty seats,” Bernier said in a statement.

“A full, in-depth forensic audit will look at both the financial situation and board operations at the VSB to ensure that close to half a billion dollars taxpayers invest in the district is going to support students.”

Bernier said he was surprised the VSB voted against the province’s offer to allow the board to sell its ownership of Kingsgate Mall, considering it was an idea presented to him by Vancouver Board chairman Mike Lombardi.

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“They also have publicly come out and dared that I fire them. A pattern that seems to be year after year in the Vancouver School Board continuing to play politics rather than worrying about students,” Bernier said.

“Year after year, they proclaim that they have large deficits but yet pass a balanced budget and usually have a surplus year over year. All of this tells me one thing, the Vancouver School Board is more interested in political games rather than dealing with what they’re supposed to be doing under their jobs as board members.”

According to Bernier, every other school board in the province, except for the VSB, passed a balanced budget before today’s deadline. He went on to say that in 2016 there are 6,500 fewer students in Vancouver compared to 2001, which is a drop of more than 10 per cent — yet at the same time, provincial funding into Vancouver has risen by 20 per cent.

READ MORE: Vancouver School Board lists 12 schools for potential closure

“The Vancouver School Board has a pattern of predicting large deficits year after year after year and they end up adding to their surplus. Our forensic audit aims to break this cycle,” Bernier said.

“It’s time for the games to end and to put students first.”

Lombardi followed up Bernier’s comments in a press conference saying they welcome the audit team but “would have preferred that the thousands of dollars spent on the audit be put towards the teachers and students in Vancouver.”

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WATCH: VSB responds to government audit and review

He also said the VSB rejected the plan because it did not include any additional provincial funding, which would be needed to deal with the $24-million shortfall in the board’s operating budget.

“Trustees have rejected this ministry proposal because it did not offer adequate, stable, predictable funding to eliminate the 2016-17 shortfall and could potentially worsen future operational shortfalls,” Lombardi said.

Lombardi said he is asking the minister to make the VSB’s case to the government and provide the additional funding.

WATCH: The education minister is launching a full review and forensic audit of the Vancouver School Board. Political reporter Keith Baldrey joins Sonia Sunger with the latest.

Click to play video: 'Provincial audit planned for VSB'
Provincial audit planned for VSB

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