What public education needs from BC Budget 2016

FACE presents to the Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services

Last year, in its Report on the Budget 2015 Consultations, the Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services declared that, although public education was clearly a high priority for British Columbian citizens, it was not being funded by the government at a level adequate to meet the needs of students. The Committee made recommendations for stable and adequate funding to enable school boards to meet their mandate to provide quality public education.

This did not happen in the BC Government’s Budget 2015.

As parents, we see the results of cost-cutting, penny-pinching, and best-of-bad alternatives decisions that school boards have been forced to make. In terms of infrastructure, we see the decrepit nature of many school buildings; necessary repairs (such as holes in ceilings) that don’t get made; bathrooms that have not been updated in decades; schools that are infested with rats; textbooks that still show the USSR or don’t include Nunavut; children sharing textbooks; schools whose playgrounds have been condemned, torn down, and not replaced.

We also see the human cost of underfunding: children who need psychological assessments on years-long waitlists; schools unable to support English language learners or special needs students to the level they deserve; schools with part-time or no teacher/librarian; schools with only part-time counselors due to increased student:counselor ratios; schools without music programs; schools without adequate custodial staff.

As parents and citizens, we ask, “What does it say about our society, and what message are we sending to our children, when we allow schools to become decrepit and services to students to be repeatedly reduced? Why do schools have to compete for limited, unpredictable, “bonus” funds for routine capital upgrade projects; shouldn’t routine upgrades be funded routinely?” The message that children are receiving, either overtly or subconsciously, is that their education is not a priority.

Funding is even further from adequate after Budget 2015 cuts to public education.

Instead we see cuts by school districts ranging from bussing to school closures and from smaller supply budgets to reduced programming and library time; an increased reliance on parent fundraising, creating have and have not schools; and further delays in making our children’s schools seismically safe.

Every child deserves the ability to receive a quality education in a safe building with the appropriate resources to enable that education.

Read our entire presentation and recommendations to the Committee (pdf)