To help rural schools in British Columbia stay open, Premier Christy Clark announced a new Rural Education Enhancement Fund today.
Districts outside Greater Victoria, the Lower Mainland, and Kelowna will be able to apply for ongoing provincial funding that recognizes the unique challenges faced in keeping schools open in rural communities.
“Closing the only high school or elementary school in a rural community has a large impact on that local economy,” Premier Clark said. “With Canada’s strongest economy it’s important that we make sure the benefits are shared by rural communities throughout our province to ensure they have the infrastructure they need to grow, attract talent, and provide critical services like health care. Our rural education strategy will help us accomplish this.”
The amount of funding districts will be eligible for is to be equal to their expected savings from closing the school. Districts would be able to apply annually for Rural Education Enhancement Funding if they meet the following criteria:
- In a rural community or sub-community outside Greater Victoria, the Lower Mainland, and Kelowna areas with a population less than 15,000;
- Closure would eliminate specific grades within the community;
- Funding is used to keep the school open; and
- Closures due to facility condition or extreme enrolment decline are not included.
While the ongoing Rural Education Enhancement Fund will help keep schools open starting this coming school year, Premier Clark also tasked newly appointed parliamentary secretary for rural education Linda Larson and parliamentary secretary for rural development Donna Barnett to conduct a full study of rural education funding in the province to seek a long-term solution.
The Rural Education Strategy will look at rural school district budgets and the role education and schools play in communities outside the Lower Mainland, Greater Victoria, and Kelowna. The strategy will aim to find solutions for the unique challenges facing rural school districts while recognizing the economic impact of single schools in small communities. Details of the review will be announced in the near future.
“For students, families, and rural areas, the local school is the centre of the community and the local economy. In my time as minister I’ve seen that our education funding model doesn’t take all the unique rural factors into account,” Minister of Education Mike Bernier said. “My ministry will work with the parliamentary secretaries to take a hard look at how we can make sure the unique community and economic role of rural schools is supported in how we fund school districts.”
A list of potentially closing schools eligible for the funding is in the attached backgrounder.