'It was a wake-up call': Greater Victoria school music programs likely saved from chopping block

It appears that students' musical messages of protest have been heard and the Greater Victoria School District's middle school music programs will be saved, at least for another year.

"We did move those cuts out of music and preserving as much of that as possible," said Jordan Watters, chair of the Greater Victoria Board of Education following a school district meeting on Wednesday night.

No vote has taken place as of yet, however. The meeting was adjourned on Wednesday night and a vote is expected to happen on Thursday night. What the board did agree on was to find other areas to cut, to make up its $7-million shortfall and keep cuts out of classrooms as much as possible.

"It looks like the board is interested in drawing down our reserves in order to preserve as much funding in the classroom as possible," said Watters.

The board has faced intense opposition to the proposed cuts from students, teachers and parents.

"It was a wake-up call for me that I wasn’t involved sooner than this year," said Karin Kwan, parent and advocate of school music programs.

Parents like Kwan joined the fight against the proposed cuts in April. Kwan's concern, however, is that if Thursday’s vote does indeed save the music programs, it may only be temporary.

"I actually think that this could be a conversation again next year so there needs to be more funding here," she said. "We need to talk about that."

The local teachers association shares similar concerns.

"Yes, we’re definitely going to be having the same conversation next year," said Winona Waldron, president of the Greater Victoria Teachers Association.

Waldron says B.C. has the second lowest per-student funding out of every province in Canada, and that is leaving school districts cash-strapped.

"Fundamentally, this is about a pot of money that doesn’t go far enough," said Waldron. "Education is good for society and we should be investing in it."

The province said in a statement Thursday that it is investing in education, and says per-student funding is up 18 per cent over the past four years.

In the meantime, the Greater Victoria School District says it has been dipping into its savings year after year to pay for programming, and it's now at the end of its savings.

"We’re looking at a deficit next year of probably around $7 or $8-million," said Watters.

"The year after that, probably around $10-million," she said.

Nothing has been written is stone until Thursday night's vote is locked in, but it’s looking as though the music programs will survive for at least another year.