Greek schools receive more time to absorb cuts

By Michelle Pucci

Greek schools in Montreal and Laval heard back from the Quebec’s education minister about a plan to eliminate its $1.8 million transport grant by 2017. To the dismay of the schools, that plan is still intact.

But the private schools will have an extended time frame for cuts to its tuition funding, which were supposed to cap off this year.

“We received word of this when the minister of education’s last budget came out in June,” said Chris Adamopoulous, director general of the Hellenic Community in Greater Montreal (HCGM) of the transport cuts.

The ministry cut just under $600,000, or 33 per cent of the schools’ transport grants this school year, with an additional $600,000, or 66 per cent cut for 2015-2016, until all of the $1.8 million received by the Greek schools is eliminated in 2017.

These are part of measures to eliminate the transport grants to all Quebec private schools within three years.

The cuts are especially harmful to the Socrates-Démosthène schools, according to the HCGM, which use the buses to transport 80 per cent of their students from six and 12 years old.

“It’s impossible for them to take bus or metro to get to school,” Adamopolous said. “We have children that live up in the regions. Some of our bus routes are 100 km or more to get our students to one of our campuses—it’s really impossible.”

The cuts will affect the estimated 1,100 students riding buses to school campuses in Laval and Montreal, he said.

Greek schools were only privatized in 2007, after the government decided they targeted mainly students of Greek origin, and couldn’t justify their public status.

“They were asked to be funded like private schools, which is a big blow to the community,” said Gerry Sklavounos, MNA for Laurier-Dorion.

Since then, the Hellenic community has been dealing with gradual cuts as they adapt to the private school funding formula, which only grants schools 60 per cent of tuition costs.

The Greek schools were set to be completely privatized this year, after seven years of reduced funding adding up to about $1.4 million, until they were hit by more budget cuts.

A few weeks ago, after negotiating with the government, the Hellenic community was granted three more years to adopt the private school funding scheme—but the $1.8 million for buses will still be gone by 2017.

“They’re just being given additional time to scale back their original program funding,” said Sklavounos.

Sklavounos, who is of Greek origin, helped bring the issue to the national assembly, but admits he doesn’t actually have any of the schools in his riding.

“It’s not in the interest of anyone at the government level that the schools be closed,” he said.

“I’m not a lobbyist for the Greek schools, I’m just someone who understands the issue.”

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