The Vancouver School Board’s (VSB) anti-homophobia consultant is one of the positions that will take a hit because of the school board’s plan to cut $18 million from its budget in the upcoming school year.
Steve Mulligan, who’s been the VSB’s anti-homophobia and diversity consultant for the last three years, says his hours have been cut by half as a result of the proposed budget measures. He will now work two days a week, instead of four.
But Mulligan says he anticipated the change.
“It’s just been cut, cut, cut, cut for the last 10 years, and so we’re really down to the bone,” Mulligan says. “There’s not much else that can go, so I was quite expecting both the anti-racism and the anti-homophobia positions to be gone completely, but they’ve both been reduced,” he says.
The fact that those two positions have been scaled back, rather than eliminated, sends a “strong message that the board really supports this work and knows that it’s a safety issue,” Mulligan adds.
“It really is critical to have this discussion happening in schools and we are making progress, so they don’t want that to end.”
Mulligan says the Learning Services department, under which the anti-homophobia consultant’s position falls, has been “hit very hard” by the cuts, with several teacher and administrative-level positions having been eliminated.
The proposed budget measures could lead to cuts in staff, days in the school year, program cancellations and even school closures.
School boards are required by law to balance their budgets.
Mulligan says he doesn’t anticipate any further reduction in hours for the anti-homophobia consultant’s position.
“[If] there’s more money coming from Victoria, then we may be able to bump it up a bit, but right now the fact that it’s still in there I think is really important.”
But without question, he adds, the reduced hours are going to make a difference.
“In terms of the amount of time I have to get out to schools and talk to teachers and model lessons in classrooms, order books and buttons and posters and organize conferences — all of that stuff is going to be basically cut in half,” Mulligan explains.
They are caught “between a rock and a hard place; there’s nothing they can do,” Mulligan acknowledges.
“They have to find money somewhere.”