Vancouver's elementary school band-and-strings program threatened yet again

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      The band-and-strings program in Vancouver elementary schools is facing a new challenge. Had it not been for last-minute, one-time funding from the provincial government last year, the program would have been eliminated for the current school year.

      With the district facing another budget shortfall, the question is where to find the almost $631,000 needed to keep it going in the school year starting in September.

      “As it stands, it was funded with one-time funding for one year. There is no funding in the budget right now to cover the cost of band and strings, and, in fact, we have another $15-million shortfall,” school trustee Patti Bacchus told the Straight by phone.

      Bacchus was chair of the Vision Vancouver–majority school board that managed to spare the program from service cuts made to address a projected $12-million budget shortfall in school year 2014–15.

      In the last election, Vision lost control of the nine-member board, which is now held by trustees from the Non-Partisan Association with the backing of a lone Green trustee.

      The district had engaged Valerie Overgaard, a retired associate superintendent in the Vancouver school system, to see how the band-and-strings program could be maintained in the 52 elementary schools where it is offered.

      Following consultations with various stakeholders, Overgaard prepared a report that’s included in the agenda of the education and student services committee meeting on Wednesday (February 11).

      In her report, Overgaard noted that some parents favour a user-pay model. Students currently pay an annual fee of $25 each. According to Overgaard, it was pointed out by a number of parents that a $250 annual fee for each participant could sustain the program.

      Overgaard also stated that one option is to offer band instruction to Grade 7 students only. Another is to limit the strings program to grades 5 to 7 students, instead of including Grade 4 students.

      Vision school trustee Mike Lombardi described the situation as one of “Sophie’s choice”.

      Lombardi told the Straight by phone that because of the chronic underfunding of education, “All we have is a choice of bad choices.”



      Moebius Stripper

      Feb 11, 2015 at 11:13am

      'Vision school trustee Mike Lombardi described the situation as one of “Sophie’s choice”.'

      That's quite the analogy there. I understand the concern over cuts to arts programs, but did I miss the part where members of the school board have to choose which of their children get sent to the gas chambers, and which go to a labour camp?


      Feb 11, 2015 at 5:30pm

      Moebius stripper - if that is your real name - (ha!) You are missing Lombardi's important point that it is a lose - lose situation for our students. I wish the NPA and Green trustees would be as vocal in their advocacy for funding public education as Vision has been. The BC Liberal government is (and has been for over a decade) deliberately underfunding public ed and it is criminal! Anyone who helped vote them in is complicit to this crime. Corporations can afford to be taxed a bit more in order to pay for public ed. Instead we get advertising crammed down our children's throats when companies 'generously' donate (it is all done in their own self interest) to hot lunch and sport programs. Thank goodness for the Vision trustees who continue to highlight the awful underfunding of public education.

      Moebius Stripper

      Feb 12, 2015 at 10:01am

      No, I don't miss the point, J. Kay. I said I understood the concern over cuts to arts programs. But they're not the Holocaust, and it shows an astonishing lack of perspective to compare them to it, let alone defend the comparison.

      M. Lombardi

      Feb 13, 2015 at 4:38pm

      In comments last week to the Georgia Straight I referred to important budget decisions at the Vancouver School Board as a 'Sophie's choice.' I wish to unreservedly apologize for any offense caused by this poor selection of words, as I never in any way intended to trivialize the unparalleled horrors of the holocaust.

      In the course of my continued advocacy for strong public education programming in Vancouver I will be sure to be more sensitive and deliberate in all of my remarks.

      With thanks,

      Mike Lombardi, Trustee
      Vancouver Board of Education