Viewpoint: Education funds lacking
BY DEBORAH NOSTDAL
As many of your readers are aware, the British Columbia Teachers’ Federation is working to negotiate a contract.
Our last contract expired in June 30, 2019. We have been bargaining for a year now. Currently we are in mediation and are committed to that mediation process.
It has been widely commented on by media outlets that we have unreasonable asks with respect to finances. Keith Baldrey recently said that the BCTF “Continues to demand the education budget be increased to accommodate their fairly expensive contract demands.”
I feel that we need some perspective on this.
Spending on education in British Columbia for the 2002-2003 school year was 3.66 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product. The last figures available are from the year 2017-2018 and they indicate that education spending in the province was 2.48 per cent of GDP. This represents a significant decrease in real dollars.
Recruitment and retention issues abound. We have over 400 unfilled teaching positions in British Columbia and a record number of unqualified teachers teaching on letters of permission. We are unable to recruit teachers when we are the second lowest paid teachers in the country. Coupled with our high cost of living, it’s an untenable situation.
Our students are funded at $1,800 below the national average. Teachers are struggling to support the diverse needs of the learners in their classrooms. After fighting in the courts to reinstate our illegally stripped language to have supports in place for our students, we are looking at a revised funding formula that falls short of what is needed.
At the same time, the government is steadily increasing their funding of private schools. Funding private schools with public money has not always been the case. British Columbia started funding private schools in 1977. The government is now spending approximately $400 million a year on private schools, which is exacerbated by the tax-free status of the properties and the income tax deductions parents receive from tuition that is charged. We are not only funding the private schools at record high levels, but we are missing out on tax dollars that fund the system.
The public should expect and demand more from our government. Our kids deserve better,our teachers deserve better and our province deserves better.
The writer is president of the Gulf Islands Teachers’ Association.