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School district creates endowment fund to support public educationNovember 20, 2014

Author: Webmaster

West Vancouver school district has created an endowment fund to better support its 17 schools at a time when provincial dollars are tight.

The fund, approved Tuesday at the final meeting of the out-going board, was kick-started by retiring chair Cindy Dekker with a $10,000 donation.

“. . . The endowment fund is one way that future trustees can ensure we are providing the world-class education that our community expects,” she said in a release.

Although new in West Vancouver, endowment funds exist in a few other B.C. school districts, allowing community members to give tax-deductible donations to support public education. Donated money is invested and the interest is used for grants.

One example is Langley, which established its endowment fund in 2008. (There are also endowment funds in a number of school districts that were established specifically for student scholarships.)

Susan Cairns, executive director of the Langley School District Foundation, says interest from the general endowment fund gives her district $12,000 a year in extra funding, but there are hopes that will grow.

The two largest districts – Surrey and Vancouver – do not have endowment funds, although the latter had one that was dissolved in 2009.

In announcing the new fund, West Vancouver superintendent Chris Kennedy said he hopes it will assist the district in delivering more personalized education.

“We get some of the top marks in the province for academic, athletic and artistic achievement, but we get there by providing ways to address each student’s needs,” he said in a release. “Additional funding for enrichment opportunities will help schools do even more to tap the potential of each student and help the Board realize its strategic goals.”

Reema Faris, who did not seek re-election, was the only trustee to vote against the plan. She said she realizes the initiative is a good fit for the community, but opposed it because it exacerbates inequality within the public education system.

“It essentially eases pressure on the provincial government to do what they ought to be doing with our tax dollars: adequately funding education,” she told me.

Faris, who left the board to build support for a broadly-based conversation about public education, said she’s also worried that the fund will pit schools and groups of students against one another as they compete for funds. “It can become about the loudest voices and not the ones who merit the most consideration,” she added.

The endowment fund will be managed by the West Vancouver Community Foundation, whose chair Geoff Jopson is Kennedy’s predecessor in the district’s top job. Disbursements will need district approval.

Also on the topic of donations, it appears the Vancouver board may soon review its policy on financial contributions from corporations after a heated debate during the election campaign about whether the district should accept money from Chevron under the Fuel Your School program.

The NPA said it should while Vision Vancouver said it shouldn’t.

Janet Fraser, the Green trustee who now holds the balance of power on the board, has been telling media she thinks the policy, last updated in 2005, deserves another look.

Fraser has said she doesn’t intend to align herself with either party but will judge each issue on its merits.

I am a guest blogger for BCCPAC and do not speak for the organization.

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