Students got an early spring break when teachers walked out for three days in March.

School District 20: Strike savings will boost bottom line

School District 20 will receive an extra $400,000 next year due to salary money saved during the 3 day teacher's strike.

There was a silver lining in the dark cloud of the teachers’ three-day strike.

Money will be coming back to school districts to help out their ailing budgets after the province clawed back $37 million in teachers salaries from their job action in mid March.

For School District 20 (Kootenay Columbia), this means an extra $400,000 next year to provide direct student support through the Learning Improvement Fund.

The money could be used to help defray the predicted $1.4 million budget shortfall for the next fiscal year, said SD20 board chair Darrell Ganzert, since it doesn’t come with many strings attached.

“Will the money go to each school equally? We’re not sure about that yet. We have to take a look at where the greatest needs are and try to satisfy those,” he said. “On the surface it looks like it will make a bit of a difference.”

The money is not required to be delivered on a per capita basis to each school, meaning the board of trustees will have some interesting decisions to make over its allotment.

It could be used for hiring additional teachers and special education assistants, said Ganzert, support professional development and training to help teachers meet complex needs in their classrooms, or provide additional teaching time.

The increase in Learning Improvement Fund (LIF) funding is due to province-wide operational savings of $37 million resulting from last month’s three-day teachers’ strike. Education Minister George Abbott said Tuesday the province was doubling the fund from $30 million to $60 million for the coming school year.

All of the strike savings will remain with school districts with $30 million being applied to LIF, and the remaining $7 million to be used by school boards for educational priorities in their respective districts.

The first $60 million in LIF funding will be allocated this fall to school districts to be used for classrooms with the highest need.

Another $60 million was allocated in 2013-14, and $75 million in 2014-15 and each year thereafter as part of Budget 2012. SD20 will receive $400,000 for the next two years, and $600,000 in 2014-15.

Decisions on how to best use the additional resources will involve consultations with the union, classroom teachers, and district and school staff.

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