More students means more money

The province is giving growing school districts, including the Central Okanagan School District, more money to recognize growth.

Growing school districts

The B.C. government is giving school districts that saw student enrolment growth this year more money.

And that includes the Central Okanagan School District, which saw 421 more students this year, bringing its total to 22,064, according to Victoria.

Education Minister Mike Bernier announced a total of $46.7 million will be divided among 42 school districts that saw growth in 2016. Eighteen districts saw their student numbers decline.

A total of of 5,676 more students were added to elementary, middle and high schools across the province this year.

“B.C.’s strong economy is attracting families from other provinces and other countries and this means new students in our school system after years of decline,” Bernier said.

The ministry noted in many districts, the number of students was stable with the changes being relatively small. Fourteen school districts had enrolment number fluctuations of fewer than 25 students either way.

The districts with the highest growth were Surrey (993 more students), Langley (697), Sooke (572), Abbotsford (484), Richmond (473), Comox (427) and Central Okanagan (421). The Vernon School District grew by 88 students this year and Okanagan Skaha, in which Penticton is located, grew by just 19 students.

The Central Okanagan is currently the fifth largest school district in the province.

The funding boost maintains the provincial commitment to keep the average per-pupil rate the same as it was at the start of the school year, which it says helps districts with their financial planning.

But Central Okanagan Board of Education chairwoman Moyra Baxter said proper levels of funding continued to bean issue this year with the school district forced to find a couple of million dollars within its existing budget to balance its books.

“There’s never enough money to continue providing enough programs,” she said.

But Bernie says B.C. will have a “record high” average per-pupil funding rate of $8,969 for this school year.

Meanwhile, he said his ministry is also providing funding protection to school districts with enrolment declines to help mitigate the impact of those changes.

Currently, there are 532,113 full-time equivalent students enrolled in B.C.’s public schools.

According to the ministry, as of September, 1,672 students had refugee backgrounds, with 500 of them being newly identified refugees. A total of 330 were from Syria.

Despite recent increases, enrolment in public schools in B.C. is 55,000 students lower than it was in 2001, largely driven by declining birth rates.

The total Ministry of Education budget is more than $5.6 billion.