Teachers’ strike could hurt district School board fears loss of revenue if international students stay away

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JULY 16, 2014 12:00 AM

 School District 43 officials are worried one of the district’s most significant revenue generators could be compromised if the teachers’ strike extends into September.

District officials sent a letter to Education Minster Peter Fassbender on Friday that suggested scores of international students could leave the local district and opt for different programs in other provinces and countries.

That potential loss of students could translate into millions in missed financial opportunities for a district coming off of a $13.4-million budget shortfall this year.

“Our fear is that, I think, the impact that this could have on school systems in the [Metro Vancouver] area, particularly in September when it comes to a loss of revenue, has been ignored,” school board chair Melissa Hyndes said Tuesday.

Hyndes noted competition

for international students is “fierce,” not just in Canada, but across the globe. Should the labour strife continue, those students could travel to Australia or the U.S. for their studies.

The 2013-14 school year saw more than 1,100 international students enrolled in School District 43, representing millions of dollars in revenue for the district.

Enrolment for the next school year sits at around 1,400 students, and has already exceeded the district’s budgetary expectations.

“We have some of the highest achievement levels in the province,” Hyndes said. “That very much attracts foreign students to us. We have a reputation for a stellar program.”

Outside of the direct revenues to the district, international students and their families pump millions of dollars into local economies as well. The district’s letter suggests that international education is a $2-billion

industry in B.C. “Our international revenues contribute provincially to employment, the housing market, retail sales, private academies and tourism,” the letter states. “International students become new Canadians and attract immigration and new business opportunities to our province.”

Meanwhile, media reports this week have suggested the strike could last into September and that little movement has been made in negotiating efforts. Hyndes, however, is taking an optimistic approach and trying to assure parents that programming will go ahead as planned.

“We are fully optimistic and we fully expect that there will be an agreement before September,” she said. “We have prepared letters to parents, we are comforting parents, and letting them know that their kids will be well looked after and that programs will be going ahead.”

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