05/18/2012 05:22 EDT | Updated 07/18/2012 05:12 EDT

Minister Threatens To Fire Defiant B.C. School Board

B.C.'s Minister of Education says he will fire the Cowichan School Board if it insists on submitting a deficit budget.

The School Act requires boards to pass balanced budgets, but on Wednesday the Cowichan School Board approved a budget with a $3.7 million shortfall, saying it has a duty to provide a quality education.

"It's a decision that was based on years and years and years of cuts," said school board chair Eden Haythornthwaite.

"Since 2009 — so we're not even having to go back very far — our board in Cowichan has been forced to cut over $10.6 million from our operating budget, and this has had quite a dire effect on our abilities to deliver programs and services to our students."

Education Minister George Abbott said his ministry has "gone the extra mile for Cowichan" by promising $3 million in additional funding for next year, despite declining enrolment.

He said the board has until June 30 to balance its budget or they will be fired.

"If they want to play a political game here, that's fine. They're big kids. They understand the consequences of that and I actually think that by the end of June, they will have changed their minds," he said.

"But if they don't, then the provisions of the school act will kick in and they will be relieved of their duties."

The School Act includes a provision that allows the Education Minister to replace school board trustees with a special administrator if they do not submit balanced budgets.

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