Financial Hardship Policy

The public school system is intended to provide all of our children with an equitable education, regardless of their family’s income. School fees should never stand in the way of their education, and the School Act requires boards to set out policies and procedures to allow participation by all children who would otherwise be excluded because of financial hardship.

This is policy 5101 for the Prince George School District.

The policy starts: “The Board of Education of School District No. 57 (Prince George) is committed to ensuring that no student is denied an opportunity to participate in a course, class or program because of financial hardship.”

I’ve bolded some important parts of the administrative procedures:

  1. All communication with students and/or parents regarding fees and deposits must include a statement that explains that fees will not be a barrier to student participation in school activities.
  2. Schools will publish, at the beginning of each school year, a schedule of fees and deposits. This schedule shall include reference to the procedures that can be followed by students, or parents on behalf of students, who would otherwise be excluded from the course, class or activity because of financial hardship.
  3. Schools will establish a hardship application process that is clear to students and parents. All staff members should be aware of this financial hardship provision and be able to advise students and parents with regard to access.
  4. The procedures for addressing financial hardship must be clearly communicated to parents and students and should be conveyed in such media as the student handbook, the parent handbook, student planners, newsletters and/or the school’s website.
  5. The hardship application process may be formal or informal. The process must always, however, respect an individual’s privacy and dignity and adhere to strict principles of confidentiality and fairness.
  6. All requests for support will be considered by the school. The school should consider, but not be limited to, the following options: deferred payment, payment over time, partial waiver or full waiver.

The regulations of the policy go into more detail over what is covered, and distinguish between curricular, co-curricular, and extra-curricular. Curricular and co-curriculum items are covered – “Schools will have in place procedures for ensuring reasonable access for all students wishing to participate in curricular and co-curricular activities.” Extra-curricular items are not obligated to be covered, but schools are encouraged to facilitate access to these.

Interestingly enough, a lot of people misinterpret this part of the policy, assuming that regular field trips are extra-curricular. They are not – they are co-curricular, according to the policy’s definitions:

  • “Curricular” means of or pertaining to courses or activities directly relating to prescribed learning outcomes outlined by the Ministry of Education
  • “Co-curricular” means of or pertaining to activities that, while not required, are intended to enhance the prescribed learning outcomes outlined by the Ministry of Education (e.g. field trips, band concerts, debating clubs, etc.)
  • “Extra-curricular” means of or pertaining to activities that do not have as their primary focus the prescribed learning outcomes outlined by the Ministry of Education (e.g. international trips at spring break, athletic teams, school dances, etc.)

Parents and students should keep this policy in mind. If material comes home from school without information about financial hardship, please politely remind the school about this policy.

Lastly, some students will self-select out of field trips or courses, rather than ask their parents for money that they know they don’t have, or admit to their teacher that poverty is an issue. Schools should be on the lookout for students are excluding themselves for this reason, and parents and students should be aware that there is funding available for hardship. All students should be included – we all benefit from an equitable education system.

Background information: What do school trustees do?

According to the BC School Trustees Association:

“British Columbia is a large province with many communities, each having different priorities, needs and unique educational requirements. British Columbians elect their boards of education to improve student achievement according to the diverse needs of these communities. As locally elected representatives, the trustees on these boards best understand their respective communities’ particular strengths, challenges and demands.

Trustees engage their communities in building and maintaining a school system that reflects local priorities, values and expectations. School trustees listen to their communities, guide the work of their school district and set plans, policies and the annual budget. Reflecting the strength of local representation, boards report back to their communities on how students are doing. Boards are directly accountable to the people they serve.”

 

According to the Georgia Straight newspaper:

“…But another challenge in recommending in school trustees is that so much of what they deal with is as a result of provincial policies.

The province determines the curriculum. The province negotiates contracts with teachers. The province provides funding for boards of education. And trustees have no power over taxing property, which leaves them searching for revenue through other means, such as by leasing school-district buildings.

It’s a thankless job, and we tip our hat to anyone who wants to run for school trustee, regardless of their party stripe. This is not a job for egomaniacs, because they generally don’t get a lot of credit for their work.

And they’re certainly not doing it for the money. [snipped as Vancouver specific]

They have all the responsibility for the operations of local schools, but not all of the authority, because much of the power resides in Victoria. For example, the province downloaded increases to teachers’ pensions, but didn’t provide funding to cover this expense.

Trustees aren’t entirely powerless, of course. They can choose to fund certain programs over others, close schools, negotiate contracts with support staff, and pursue different approaches in lobbying for more resources from the province.

In addition, good trustees will hire the best administrators.”

Interesting new study – positive student mental health in schools

Anti-bullying measures alone are not enough to encourage positive mental health for children in schools, suggests a new study from the University of British Columbia.

In a study published recently in the journal Social Science & Medicine, researchers found that children who reported feeling a greater sense of belonging in school tended to be more optimistic, while students who experienced bullying felt less optimistic.

Interestingly, researchers found that lower school-wide bullying levels were not specifically associated with more optimism. School-wide feelings of peer belonging and adult support, on the other hand, were linked to children’s optimism.

The findings suggest that, when it comes to creating nurturing environments, schools need to focus on enhancing positive relationships for students with their peers and teachers.

“The take-home message is that schools need to invest in building healthy social climates,” said Eva Oberle, the study’s lead author and assistant professor in the school of population and public health at UBC. “Many schools have anti-bullying campaigns, which is great. But our findings suggest that we also need initiatives that actively promote a healthy, supportive environment.”

Sense of belonging in school key to children’s positive mental health

A rationale for running from Prince George Citizen editorial

I found this editorial in the Prince George Citizen very meaningful to me – “If you don’t feel a burning desire to do your part to make your community better, then you shouldn’t run.

If you don’t play well with others and think you already have all the answers so you don’t need to consider the views of others, you shouldn’t run.

If you’re running out of anger because you’ve been hard done by, you shouldn’t run.

If you wouldn’t do it for free, you shouldn’t run.

On the other hand, if you love this community and feel you owe Prince George a far greater debt than it owes you, please consider political service.

If you love the people of this community and want to work for all of them, not just the ones who agree with you or voted for you, please consider political service.

If you are willing to cast a vote on a controversial issue knowing that friends and family will be upset with you but you believe your stance is what’s best for the overall community, please consider political service.

Let nothing but fear and the opportunity to make a difference stop you.”

Some evidence of commitment

I’ve been cleaning out my files, and these some of the many school board and committee agenda packages, plus budget meetings packages, for meetings I’ve voluntarily attended over the past 8 or so years. I’ve had a voice – but now I’m looking for a vote.

Announcing candidacy

I would like to announce that I am going to running for the Prince George School board for the October 20th election.
I am passionate about the importance of the public education system in a democratic society, and the role that our school system plays in helping all our children become educated and well adjusted citizens, able to participate in our community.
I bring with me years of knowledge as to how the school system works, a huge amount of respect for the many valuable employees in our district, financial and numeric literacy, a commitment to working with others with respect, and a commitment to transparency, communication, and planning.
I would like to see a school district that serves the needs of all of our students and our community, and is an employer of choice.
I have been volunteering at Parent Advisory Councils since my first child started kindergarten, at Austin Road Elementary, then at Heather Park Elementary, and Duchess Park Secondary. When it was announced that Austin Road was closing, I started attending District Parent Advisory Council (DPAC) meetings, eventually volunteering with the executive, working on the website, serving as treasurer, vice chairperson, and as chairperson for four years.
As a representative for DPAC, I have attended many school board and committee meetings over the years, and have both critiqued and congratulated the board and district many times on items such as catchment, capacity, projections, lunches, financial hardship, transparency, budgets, and following board policies, to name a few topics. I have also seen the importance of good working relationships with all of our partner groups.
In my work life, I am a financial planner, and in my personal life I have two daughters and have been married for 26 years to my husband, and my previous volunteer history includes serving on the Prince George Library Board, as well as with professional associations.
More information:
https://fb.me/SarahHollandforPGSchoolTrustee
www.sarahholland.com
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