The Vancouver School Board’s problems are, for the most part, the problems shared by all districts in the province and caused by the provincial government. All boards have been starved of funds via the per pupil funding model and have been forced to make cuts that reduce the quality of education and equity of access to education. The province has a duty to provide quality public education to all learners; but, rather than fulfill that duty, it has required boards to cut staff, services, maintenance, and programs in order to balance underfunded budgets.
Closing schools in an attempt to address operational budget shortfalls does not work: for example, Prince George has closed 21 schools yet still must make cuts to its operational needs every year in order to balance an underfunded budget. That public education is underfunded is a fact acknowledged even by the government MLAs on the Select Standing Committee for Government and Finance.
Boards have also had to deal with strings tied to what should be the fundamental first priority of all governments: children’s safety. Forcing a board to pack too many kids into too few schools with not enough services in order to potentially provide seismic safety to other kids in other schools is unconscionable.
In addition to the issues that face all districts, Vancouver’s board was divided along partisan lines. It had essentially become a board of one: since the last election, the lone Green trustee’s vote was the only one that counted on contentious issues, as she broke the stalemate between the four NPA trustees and the four Vision trustees. Now Vancouver has another one-person board, this time appointed by the provincial government.
The question parents and voters have is: Will the minister’s appointee act in the long-term interests of the community and stand up for the quality of education that BC’s kids deserve, or will she make the cuts demanded by a provincial government that sees education as only a cost to be minimized rather than an investment in the future? Parents and others who care about public education will be watching.
*On Monday, October 17, the Minister of Education dismissed the elected Vancouver School Board trustees and replaced them with an appointed trustee.