Now that school has resumed in BC we’re back to business as usual or the usual business of the BC Liberal government’s attack on schools. School board funding shortfalls are back in the headlines along with court challenges.
Indeed there is a strategy behind the chaos – at least the parts that can’t be attributed to incompetence. So, here is the four step plan (not in order) of what government needs to do to get out of the business of public education. (And yes, there are many decision-makers who do not believe government should play a central role in educating a nation’s children.)
Step 1: Change how schools are funded.
- One of the most important steps was changing the funding formula and rolling fixed costs into the per pupil grant. This has already resulted in a competitive culture between schools that even now, in order to keep the lights on and the school clean, a critical number of students must attend the school. Every student enrolled in a private school results in a loss of at least $6,900 per year to public schools.
- The percentage of the provincial budget spent on K – 7 education has gone from just under 25% in 2002 to about 14% in 2014. Over the same period of time the population of BC grew by about 500,000. Private school enrollment over the same period increased significantly.
Step 2: Change how and who run schools.
- Since 2002, the government has eroded the actual decision-making power of locally, democratically elected school boards.
- While schools always had parent committees, the government brought in legislated School Planning Councils to develop and approve school plans – including the allocation of resources.
- Under the banner of ‘parent choice’ the government got rid of school catchment areas. This allows for the movement of students and the funding that goes with them in response to the competitive marketplace of schools.
Step 3: Erode public confidence in the existing system through negative PR
- We are all too familiar with the ongoing funding crisis facing school boards. In fact every spring we might as well just recycle the same media stories.
- Changing the criteria for assessing and supporting special needs students means not a month goes by where we don’t hear about a student falling through the cracks.
Step 4: Destroy professional unions that ensure quality, consistent public education.
1. No details needed.
The $40-a-day voucher payment to parents was an unprecedented response to a labour dispute in BC. The tremendous show of support for teachers, the almost universal rejection of the $40 dollar a day voucher and the absence of a robust private sector response to filling the gap showed the BC Liberal Caucus does not have the public support to radically change how public education is delivered.
Advocacy led by parents, students and citizens must challenge the Liberal’s agenda to erode and destroy BC’s public schools.