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Posted: February 10, 2015

SD5 asks PM to restore mandatory census

Southeast Kootenay, School District No. 5 (SD5) School Board of Trustees is urging Prime Minister Stephen Harper to restore a mandatory census in Canada.

The SD5 board outlined in a Jan. 14 letter to the Prime Minister, which included a motion approved by the board last November, that changes made by his government, making the census voluntary instead of mandatory, has left a derth in information that creates problems in funding formulas for the BC government.

The letter relates the board’s “concern for the lack of useful statistical data that is currently available to Canadians due to 2010 changes to the National Household Survey (NHS) – also known as the census — from mandatory to voluntary completion.

SD5logo“Recently our board inquired into the formula factors used for provincial funding for an important B.C. school district program, CommunityLINK. This program supports vulnerable students in communities across the province of B.C. and is based on a set of Vulnerable Student Supplement (VSS) formula factors that measure vulnerability based on economic conditions, social conditions and educational attainment.

“Much of the data used to measure these VSS formula factors relies on Statistics Canada census data. Last year the BC Ministry of Education contacted BC Stats to inquire about 2011 census data and was informed that there are some concerns with the 2011 NHS data,” the SD5 board explained.

“In her October, 2014 correspondence to our District Principal of Student Services, Ministry policy analyst Nancy Needham states, “Stats Can has urged caution when using the data, particularly for longitudinal analysis, which has added new complexities to updating the VSS formula.”

“Obviously, as the NHS is now a voluntary survey there is no way of knowing where a count was complete and where it was not. This makes the possibility of receiving accurate longitudinal analysis almost impossible, especially in communities like those in our district whose populations are less than 25,000,” SD5’s letter continues.

“Without current, accurate data our provincial government can only guess where the vulnerable students in small B.C. communities reside, meaning that many districts may receive too little – or too much — CommunityLINK subsidy funding even though it is based on the VSS.

“Given that the Federal Government has the means to ensure accurate data collection as evidenced by years of usable data provided by the previously mandatory NHS results, it is simply unacceptable that our provincial government is put in the position of having to ‘guess’ how to spend tax dollars responsibly, especially given this time of fiscal restraint and accountability.”

Noting that it is for those reasons it passed the following motion at its November 12 (2014) meeting:

M/S that the Board write a joint letter with stakeholders to Prime Minister Harper urging his government to reconsider the changes of the National Household Survey from voluntary back to mandatory and that this letter be copied to Head of Statistics Canada, opposition party leaders, our local MP, the Premier and education ministers of BC and their opposition, our local MLA, presidents of the Canadian School Boards’ Association (CSBA), the BC School Trustees’ Association (BCSTA), Canadian School Boards’ Association (CFF), BC Teachers’ Federation (BCTF), National and BC Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), BC Confederation of Parent Advisory Councils (BCCPAC)(for distribution to their members), local association chairs/presidents and to media.

“We sincerely hope your government will reconsider replacing the V-NHS with the original mandatory census in order to ensure that all tax dollars are being allocated in a fiscally responsible manner. We cannot imagine that BC CommunityLINK funding is the only casualty of ‘best guess’ economics due to the unreliability of the V-NHS,” the SD5 board letter concluded.

There is currently a private member’s bill before Parliament – Bill C-626 – from Ted Hsu, Liberal MP for Kingston, Ont., calling for the return of the long-form census.

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