The Province is considering taking a slice of local school districts' revenue from international student programs — which concerns the Comox Valley Board of Education.
School District 71 superintendent Sherry Elwood filled trustees in on the situation during last week's Board of Education meeting, noting the issue came up at an International Public School Education Association (IPSEA) meeting.
"In the November meeting, quite suddenly to be fair, the government made a funding proposal to IPSEA that would have government receiving money from districts, basically a surcharge for every student that we bring in and money would go directly to the Ministry of Education," said Elwood, noting IPSEA is a steering committee including the 24 school districts in B.C. that bring international students into their schools.
Elwood noted there "wasn't a lot of meat" around the government's potential plan, but the idea was that the Ministry would use the money to offer a variety of services. However, Elwood added districts already provide "very many" of the services outlined.
She noted the conversation at the IPSEA table was "difficult" and IPSEA wrote to the Ministry on behalf of all the districts involved asking for clarification on how the money would be spent and whether it plans to move forward with the idea, among other things.
"We're waiting for some clarification from the Ministry and I suspect that IPSEA themselves will respond with some serious concerns over government taking a percentage of the fees that students bring to districts or a per person, per student ratio," said Elwood, adding international student program sizes vary throughout the province, with some large ones in the Vancouver area.
And "a couple of them (districts)" have large off-shore international schools and so there's lots of dollar value to the Ministry if they were to actually place a surcharge on international ed.
Elwood also noted there was talk around "leveling the playing field" by possibly setting limits on the number of international students per district — and introducing a flat rate for tuition across the province, which Elwood noted would pose a disadvantage for smaller districts.
"If it's a flat rate for students to come and they can either pay the same amount of money to go to Vancouver or the same amount of money to go up into the Interior, Fort Nelson, it's going to be very difficult for those smaller districts to market students to come to their districts," she said.
About 215 to 225 international students are expected to come through the Comox Valley International Student Program by the end of this school year.
Although revenue was discussed, Elwood pointed out the revenue is a not the reason for the district's international program.
"We don't do it because of the revenue — revenue's a by-product," said Elwood. "We do it because it makes us better — it gives us opportunity to bring international students who live a very different life, and bring them into our schools and connect with our kids and become their friends, and have wonderful homestays, and we're all better for that experience."
Trustees voted in favour of a Janice Caton motion to write a letter to the Ministry expressing the board's concerns over the government's review of the International Student Program and asking for consultation before any changes are made.