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Editorial — Langley School District caught in the vise
Langley School District appears to be caught in the vise-like grip of reduced provincial spending on new schools.
It isn’t the first time. There were no new schools built in Langley’s fast-growing Willoughby neighbourhood for a decade, even though the province was doing well financially much of that time. Only after enormous enrolment pressures and a push from local MLAs did the ministry of education finally release funds for the second school to be built in Willoughby, Lynn Fripps Elementary. It opened in September, 2012.
Since that first release of some capital funds for a new school, the province has provided money for two more new schools in the area — a middle school and another elementary school. All are badly-needed.
However, the school district’s latest list of capital funding requests has recently been turned down by the province. It is almost certain that this is due to a tightening of funds for capital projects across the province, and in all ministries. The Christy Clark government says it is balancing its budget, and the only way it can do so is to boost taxes (which it does largely through secondary agencies like BC Hydro, ICBC and the Medical Services Plan) and by cutting discretionary spending.
It’s an old political trick. Hit taxpayers with fees that aren’t called taxes, and follow the example of longtime premier W.A.C. Bennett. Revered today by people of all political stripes, he regularly turned off the spending tap to balance his budgets. School districts squawked, and in many of them, students went on shift because of a lack of classrooms, but the books were balanced.
While Willoughby parents aren’t happy that there are no funds available for another high school and additional elementary schools, they do have a few positives to consider. There are now four elementary schools in Willoughby, with a fifth one nearby. There will be a middle school in place in September, and it will ease some of the enrolment pressure at Mountain Secondary.
There is also much better liaison between Langley Township council and the Board of Education. This allows both bodies to better understand what is in the pipeline for development and population growth in the fastest-growing area of Langley, and one of the fastest-growing areas of the Lower Mainland.
The issue needs to remain top-of-mind.