15 April 2010

The folly of under funding

I have never weighed in on school issues on this blog, but feel I need to share some of my thoughts in the latest salvo from the Ministry of Education who have appointed an auditor to look at the Vancouver School Board's budgeting process.

As a front-line worker in the education system, I am well aware of what the continuous under funding, year after year, is doing to our public schools. Each year the provincial government gives an amount to school districts that does not keep up with inflation or other increased costs. This means that employees are cut, programs are cut, field trips are cut, sports programs are cut, music programs are cut. Fewer books are purchased, fewer computers are purchased, fewer resources are purchased. As I explained to Mike DeJong on Global TV a couple of elections ago, when funding goes up by 3 cents but costs go up by 5 cents, you can claim that more pennies are going into it, but you are still short—and we are not talking about pennies here, but millions of dollars. Chronic under funding is crippling our schools. Yes we are still doing a good job, but the people of British Columbia deserve better than a good system.

What strikes me as odd is that almost every school district in the province is faced with the same shortfall and they have spoken out too—yet only Vancouver was sent an auditor. You may say that the VSB has made this political, but the province is playing in kind. The minister is playing high stakes politics with our children’s future. I don’t think this is good public policy or good politics. If the province is serious about funding they would have send an investigative team out months ago to look at how school districts across the province spend their money. Then and only then, when they have enough information should they give out the local allocation and claim that it is sufficient. This same scenario was played out years ago and the auditor came back saying districts needed more money. What will the province do when the auditor comes to the same conclusion this time? It’s time educational stakeholders stopped playing games and started respecting our children. Quality education costs money—money that is the best investment in all of our futures.

When senior levels of governments, who hold the purse strings, fail to sufficiently fund our public entities, we all suffer--whether it is schools or parks, insufficient funding only results in less service and fewer opportunities for us all.

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