Submission to VSB at Public Consultations on Budget 2016/17 (April 14, 2016)
Jennifer Stewart on behalf of Families Against Cuts to Education
There is a province-wide problem with education funding. Districts all over BC are facing budget shortfalls yet again this year; some will be able to make up the difference with one-time funding, but most are making cuts to programs, services, and even entire schools.
The VSB’s shortfall is notable for its size, which may result from the district’s unique demographic challenges in combination with previous decisions regarding one-time funding solutions. But it is far from unique in its struggle to balance its budget and this is because the funding allocated to the districts by the province is not sufficient to meet costs. This has been acknowledged by MLAs from both sides of the Legislature who are members of the Select Standing Committee for Government and Finance. Last November, they unanimously concluded that
Current funding levels and assistance are inadequate, which is causing significant operational and program delivery problems in schools throughout B.C.
They made three recommendations:
First, the Committee recommends that government ensure sufficient and timely capital funding to provide for facility improvements, seismic upgrades and also to facilitate the building of new schools in areas that are struggling to cope with increasing student numbers. The Committee ascertains that additional funding is necessary to ensure the provision of quality public education and to properly meet the increased costs that schools are currently facing.
Finally, the Committee recommends a review of the Ministry of Education funding formula relating to programs, services and administrative staffing compensation, to ensure this sector is properly supported. By properly investing in this sector, the Committee suggests that economic and community goals have a better chance of being realized.
This third recommendation gets to the heart of the matter: the current funding model, based on a per-pupil amount, is not working. The per-pupil model is not conducive to a system that provides consistent, reliably high-quality education across the province. The per-pupil model punishes communities that, for whatever reason, see a decrease in student population. Shouldn’t kids in those communities be able to access the same quality of education as those in growing communities?
The VSB has been active in advocating for increased funding, but FACE urges this board to also advocate for a change to how that funding is calculated. The actual costs of providing quality public education need to be taken into account. The current model is not working, and kids across BC are paying the price.
On our website, as part of our #bcedinred campaign with the Parent Advocacy Network, we have a growing list of districts facing shortfalls. Join us in wearing red on the day the provincial budget is passed, as a visual statement that while BC’s budget may be in the black, public education is in the red.
(Find pdf version here.)