I try very hard to be positive about the future of education. I whole-heatedly believe that this is an exciting time to be an educator and that we are witnessing a Transformation in education. However, I can’t help but feel that, at least in BC, Canada, we are being threatened by a model where chronic under-funding, and the siphoning off of funds to counter cost pressures, is leading us into peril.

“All districts, including growing districts like Surrey, Delta and the Central Okanagan, are contemplating more education job cuts because they face provincial funding shortfalls. Parent groups and trustees are telling the B.C. Liberals their budget will negatively impact the learning experience of our kids,” said Rob Fleming, New Democrat education critic.

Despite two Supreme Court rulings overturning B.C. Liberal laws on class size and composition, as well as expired contracts with the province’s teachers and support staff, a provincial education budget increase of only 0.4 per cent is causing districts to make budget cuts in excess of $56 million.

“Last year the Minister of Education ordered school districts to fund provincially negotiated contract costs for 22,000 support staff entirely through ‘internal savings,’ and with great difficulty they did,” said Fleming. “But in this provincial budget cycle they are drawing from the same well again and ordering school trustees to fund MSP increases, BC Hydro increases, pension adjustments, even provincial seismic school upgrades from a reduced budget – and that’s before any new settlements with teachers and assistants.” [Source]

I remember a prominent, influential and very respected official at the Ministry of Education talking to a group of my colleagues and he said about the BC Education Plan, “The money is the money”. In other words, we have a plan, but we don’t have additional money to make it work… it’s up to you to figure it out.

B.C. has a strong education system, but there is no denying that our world is changing rapidly. New jobs are constantly being created, and technology is changing the way we communicate and connect with each other.

Under BC’s Education Plan, our system will be more flexible, dynamic and adaptable to better prepare students. A more personalized approach to learning is already happening in schools around the province. Now, we want all B.C. students to share in these changes.  [Source]

I think that it is a daunting task to implement widespread change without adding additional resources… but it is something that many amazing educators are, or rather were, trying to do. Unfortunately, as districts across the province have learned, as hard as “The money is the money” is to deal with, the reality is that this statement isn’t true! Districts are constantly having to do more with less.

I’ve never been a conspiracy theorist, but I’m beginning to question if there is some sort of hidden agenda? Some master plan to undermine and dismantle public education? I don’t want to believe this, but I’m starting to wonder.

Personalization within a flexible, dynamic and adaptable system can NOT happen in schools where student services for special needs are being cut, libraries and cafeterias are being closed, or where schools can’t run special or elective programs unless they fill every class to capacity. I’m seeing innovation stifled and opportunities for students being siphoned away.

I believe that public education is an obligation of a free society. I believe that there is amazing potential to be innovative and transform the way teaching and learning happens in our schools. I believe we not only can, but should provide a flexible, dynamic and adaptable system that is more personalized for our students. I believe that to do this we need to properly fund public education. And, I believe that our students, our children, deserve the best education that we can possibly give them.

It’s time to siphon resources into public education. Please share your thoughts on how we can make this happen!

[*UPDATE: Please see my comment/response to Mr. Pierre Laberge, below, for more specific details related to the cuts and underfunding of public education in BC.]

31 comments on “Siphoning Off of Public Education

  1. David, this sounds very familiar! Non-negotiable costs keep going up, and those who’d prefer not to spend tax dollars on schools will say that education is getting more money than ever, while teachers are getting pay cuts.

    I share your concern. I see it less as a hidden agenda than as a simple lack of responsibility—everyone sees it as someone else’s concern to balance the budget and deliver a great education. Oh, and ensure decent salaries, and safe school buildings, and innovation…

    I will say that one thing I felt was respectable about our Race to the Top program was that it included real dollars (tied to some bad ideas, but still, real dollars).

    1. Justin,
      I’m so thankful that our province, and country for that matter, has no ties to NCLB and Race to the Top. The BC Edplan is actually a well developed plan and even some of the not-so-popular aspects are grounded in good practice. I stay grounded in thinking there is great potential… I just hope ‘real dollars’ are set aside to help us achieve what I know is possible!

  2. Congratulations David, and thank you.

    You are the first administrator (that I’m aware of) with the courage to speak out and publicly offer an opinion regarding the worsening conditions in the BC Public Education System.

    Your colleagues in the Principals and Vice Principals Association have remain conspicuously silent as district after district considers deep cuts to programs and services. Your own district (SD43) is pondering the layoff of all Teacher-Librarians – the very people who are essential for the implementation of the BC EdPlan and 21st Century Learning.

    Perhaps if more of your colleagues would speak up and take a stand, the BC Government would realize that it’s not “just” teachers or school board members who are upset by the current situation.

    1. Thanks John,
      Administrators are put in a really difficult spot during job action. It is a rediculous structure we have in BC that we are not joined with the teachers union. The moment job action starts, the teacher’s union wants to impose actions that will have minimal impact on students and so their actions are directed at administration… There is no other group in or out of education that knows how hard teachers work, than administrators, yet it is our connection to teachers that is severed.

      I had a Principal years ago that, during job action, wrote a letter to the editor that praised teachers and their hard work. I agree with you that as a group, the administrator voice is not loud enough. If we want to be leaders, I think we need to lead when it is hardest to do so.

      We are not only dealing with increased costs creating an issue of underfunding, we are actually dealing with a number of people in our community that believe we need to stop whining and just do things smarter… On that note, I have a response to the comment below that I have to work on.
      Thanks again,

  3. Sir: You view these as a syphoning off.

    In reality, in any business, they are a cost of doing business. The general response to any of this, by a logical small business man, would be to control costs by being more efficient, and the bring in additional income by increasing sales or by diversification. Big companies have much more freedom. They simply raise prices or lower services. Consider banks, for instance! Or cable companies that force you to buy packages of channels you do not want. (But then that industry is changing…the topic is beyond the scope of discussion, here.)

    Yet, in education, I , the taxpayer, the ultimate funder, see my taxes/costs go up each year. Yet, I see nothing new as a result. More students (clients) are not being served, in fact, demographics point quite the other way. Better products (more usefully educated kids) are not the result, indeed, Johnny STILL cannot read, some 40 years after the original book. So any pain is not unique to those in the system.

    Below, I discuss ways that others have dealt with these issues. Now I realize that a lot of these issues are the fault of bad administration, so there would be little or nothing that principals, teachers or students could do about them. At least no more than an average taxpayer could. The most they can do is be the canaries in the coal mine, and warn the rest of us of any silliness or waste that they encounter. But yet, I do have some few examples of things that they could do:

    Insulation, more efficient lighting, set-back thermostats, etc. I know several small landlords who have worked wonders here. Of course, there are end limits to possible savings! Instead, I hear teachers bitching about the color of the paint in their classrooms! (They should look at more important fish to fry.) And while I have seem some administrative bodies work on things like more efficient fluorescents, some seem reticent. Why? How could the staff at the bottom, garner allies out in the world, to cause improvements? But the staff, usually is not the type of person that likes to reach out to the community to form synergies. Here, they are shooting themselves in the foot. Of course, groups, teachers unions, principals associations, can come up with creative and constructive ideas.

    Again, one one can become more efficient. But one must also beware of false economies. Not fixing a road for 10 years, will mean the road is no longer repairable, and a whole new one must be built. Now here, the issue seems to be an inability of administrations to get this under way. The most that principals, teachers and students could do would be to try control vandalism better. Unlike, say Doukhobors or farmers, they cannot stage a barn bee. But they can speak out about wasted efforts, or things going to waste by not being maintained properly. They can also move towards fewer disposables… Again, ff course, groups, teachers unions, principals associations, can come up with constructive ideas, policies, suggestions….

    This affect everyone, every government program and expense. To a large extent, this is what budget increases are meant to cover. Often the funds are used for something else. There is little the staff at the bottom can do, again, except speak out about mis-use of funds. We are all in the same boat here. On can speak out against inflationary government policies. But I remember the inflation of the 1970’s and Trudeau’s 2 famous speeches on it. I also remember 6 and 5. And I recall how outside global influences can come to affect local issues. It is the same today, perhaps, even, outside issues have more power. Compcrete ideas, from school folks, would be very hard to come by, as they would require specialized training and expertise and experience.

    Contract Costs:
    There are several issues here. From inefficiently drawn cost plus contracts, to automatic COLA, to wasteful use of funds. Again, the most the local folks can do, is be canaries in the coal mine. They must attract the attention of the public when stupid things are being done. In some cases the stupid things can be stopped. In some cases, bad people can be censured, disciplined, fined, or even let go. Yet again, of course, groups, teachers unions, principals associations, can come up with constructive ideas. Many minds can come up with more ideas than can say, one minister of education.

    Pension and Health:
    Well, I can see this as a big issue in the USA, maybe. In Canada? NO! In Ontario we have OHIP. Similar plans exist in all the other provinces and territories. Albeit, they are wasteful, and much streamlining, and improvement would be possible. There is also a lot of discrimination. This could be looked into. Now, whether our school system and staff would have the “ability” to make any suggestions or contributions for improvements in this area? I dunno. They have had decades to do so. Nothing yet. And their supplementary health plans are cadillac plans, far beyond what a majority of other Canadians have. A few other unions have as good, but they are not in any hurry to see this come down to the average Canuck, either. Ideas appear to be in short supply.

    Well, all Canadians can qualify for CPP, OAS, and the supplement. In this regard, school teachers and administrators should not complain. They are getting the highest of possible retirement benefits. And these moneys have nothing to do with education moneys. They are Federal. The education moneys are Provincial.
    Indeed, teachers and school staff also have a totally separate pension system, which is very well funded. It is very generous also. I cannot see any complaints, here. Most civil servants who manage a full time & long term career, are uberly well cared for. And the end moneys are more out of another pot than strictly out of any education pot. Just a few years ago, the Ontario Teachers Pension Fund made a lot of waves. They caused a lot of problems in the investment market. They wanted to buy out a tiny little insignificant company to use as a cash cow. The company? Bell Canada. Something tells me that the resulting broo ha ha, which I think went as far as the Supreme Court, meant they were certainly not short of investment funds!

    So, what you need to to is get some people together, and think. Then you gather up ideas and proposals and constructive criticisms, to make things better, and more efficient and useful for everyone. Merely making lists of complaints, with no effort at solutions, will not get us anywhere. And anyone who expects politicians to do all the heavy lifting now-a days…. is wasting their time.

    1. Sir,
      Thank you for your comment! I appreciate that both time and thought were put into your response, and as such, I hope to do the same in responding to you.

      I’d like to address two quick topics, then each of the categories you mention but more in general than point-by-point.

      With respect to: “Johnny STILL cannot read, some 40 years after the original book”, the reality is that 40 years ago most of the Johnny’s were drop-outs that didn’t finish school, but now our district has graduation rates in the mid 90% range. To extrapolate further, you say you see nothing new, come and visit my school, please.

      My second point is that several times you bounce between “groups, teachers unions, principals associations, can come up with constructive ideas, policies, suggestions” and “The most they can do is be the canaries in the coal mine”. Then you end with “Merely making lists of complaints, with no effort at solutions, will not get us anywhere.”

      What I’ll share below will hopefully do 3 things for you:
      1. Show that we are actually underfunded… dealing with CUTS to education in BC.
      2. Hopefully demonstrate that we are making efforts, and not just suggestions.
      3. Distinguish that this IS my ‘canary call’, and not just a list of complaints.

      1. I’ll start with this quote from my Superintendent, Tom Grant. This goes far beyond the scope of your ‘Inflation’ topic and so this is the only place I’ll address that point.

      "Indeed this is more than just increases to inflation," Grant said.
      He also itemized the following costs as downloading to the district:
      • $2 million extra each year in covering the unfunded liability of teachers' pensions, plus $700,000 in increases in other benefits;
      • $220,000 this year for costs related to a new provincially mandated student tracking system, with similar costs expected next year;
      • $2 million to cover CUPE wage increases — which were negotiated provincially — without funding increases to pay for them;
      • changes in how adult courses leading to graduation are funded, with the district stuck with paying when people don't finish them or don't get 60% in the course;
      • $650,000 in higher utility costs;
      • $2 million as the result of changing over to a new accounting standard;
      • $2 million to $3 million redistributed to districts needing funding protection for declining enrolment.
      "We don't get enough to cover all these items plus inflation on an annual basis," Grant said.

      This underlies everything that I mention below. I have been an educator long enough to know that we are continually expected to do more with less, and that we have now reached a point where EVERY decision we make to save and cut costs are now decisions that directly affect our ability to ‘Help Johnny learn to read’. This is extremely disconcerting and the reason for my ‘canary call’.

      2. General responses to the sections you mention:

      We have reduced our hydro costs considerably in the last few years and the savings have been significant. We are at the point now where you need money to save money. For example, there are lights we can use in schools that will be more efficient and longer lasting. However, the cost of refitting the light fixtures and making the original lighting purchase far exceed anything we have a budget for. A very large amount of the affordable “creative and constructive ideas” have been done, or are things we are working on. Suggestions beyond accusations of educators in general being “not the type of person that likes to reach out to the community to form synergies” would be greatly appreciated.

      This was actually called seismic upgrading as per the quote in my post, but I generalized it to Maintenance. I really appreciated your point about not fixing the road then having to replace the whole thing later. Seismic upgrading takes this one step further. Some BC schools require seismic upgrading, however the funding for this can ONLY be used to upgrade the structure. Administrators and board office leaders advocate for more choice over how this upgrade funding is used, so that they can include repairs and upgrades beyond improving seismic standards.

      Contract Costs
      As mentioned above: “• $2 million to cover CUPE wage increases — which were negotiated provincially — without funding increases to pay for them;”
      Let’s think this though: Government gives a negotiated raise. School board covers cost from within their budget. This is a CUT in funding.
      No amount of creative thinking can make that up.

      Pensions and Health
      Ultimately, we as taxpayers do foot the bill for public employees. What you might not realize is how some of these expenses are paid. You see, if you run a company, the money for pensions actually comes from 3 places:
      – The government
      – The employee
      – The employer
      When it is the school board that is the employer, it too must contribute. What has happened is that the government has mandated that employers foot more of the bill. So, from the FIXED amount that school boards are given, they must now pay more back to the government to cover pensions. This is an added cost pressure, which by any other description is a CUT to educational funding. School boards simply can NOT compensate or create additional profits to compensate for (another) $2Million+ in new costs that have been downloaded to them.
      See my point in Contract Costs above.

      3. I invite you to go to the news article I linked to above, and will share again here: Have a look at the section called STAFF CUTS.

      This post was not about me whining and complaining. This is my ‘canary call’, it is my plea for others to recognize that new costs are climbing. By the way, I have been using the term ‘canary call’ to distinguish a cry for help… however that is the wrong metaphor because the real use of the ‘canaries in the mines’ was that they died to warn you of impending danger. The danger was when you didn’t hear the canary chirping, not the other way around.

      You can call it offsetting costs, cost pressures, cost downloading, inflation, the price of doing business… you can throw a thousand economic terms at education, but education is not a business. It does not have revenue streams, and it does not have a way to deal with continued CUTS… no matter how they are described.

      I am frustrated that administrators and educators are constantly looked to for creative ways to cut costs and save money, while funding does not keep up. I am frustrated that public opinion sways towards teachers being lazy, or overpaid, or wasteful. The fact is that every profession has people that are fantastic and people that struggle. Hard working, caring and thoughtful educators are always lumped in with the worst of the worst that make the news. In reality, I have met less than a handful of teachers that I wouldn’t want my own kids to have in their class, but I have met hundreds and hundreds that I would gladly have teach my own kids… Hardworking, caring and skilled professionals that do not only focus on teaching and learning, but on developing the best ‘asset’ our country has… our children.

      And finally, if I were to distil this long response into one simple statement it would be this:
      “Current funding of public education is not just hampering innovation and good teaching, it is actually harming the students we care for.”

      1. Yes, I agree that with the “cost” of running the schools, it takes way from the student’s education. We need more funding for the education aspect, not running a business!

        1. Hi Kathy,
          We can’t avoid the costs of running a school, we just need to have enough funds so that isn’t all that we can do.
          Thanks for your comment!

      2. Dear Dave,
        Thanks for being apart of the solution. Many do not realize the conundrum that we face as educators. We are working harder, with fewer resources and the cuts I see affect the most vulnerable, our special needs. They get less support, not from the teachers, but fewer resources that help them be successful and less support from E.A.s.
        We should also mention the added taxes we will pay in the form of hydro rate increases. These same corporations provide more money for the liberals to pad their budgets…as they take money out, keep our taxes low and keep down corporate tax rates, this becomes the new hidden tax?

        1. Thanks for commenting Andre,
          I think the ‘hidden taxes’ as you call them are part of a set of ‘hidden cuts’, which by any other name… Are still cuts!

  4. Thank you David for being so honest, and I’m afraid accurate, about this issue. This link was emailed to me by an administrative friend, covertly of course due to Phase One Job Action. Obviously I can think for myself and value my friends more than union mandates. I’m not a big fan of the BCTF, I would summarize myself as a compassionate conservative, heck I was even an elementary VP for a few years before I realized it wasn’t for me; but like you I’m sensing a short-sighted plan by Christy Clark to expand private education at the expense of public schools. You accurately summarize the increased costs and the chronic underfunding, and your canary call needs to be heard.

    I’ve been teaching for 23 years and in that time all governments, NDP and Liberals alike, have continually cut back on education costs. As a fiscal conservative I think it worked to make our school system very efficient but now I’d argue there’s nothing left to cut without doing more harm than good. Today we face greater demands than ever, with the least receptive generation of children to enter our schools and increasingly critical and confrontational parents. I can handle all that because I’m smart, hard-working, and dedicated…like most of my colleagues. Just look at the stats and you can see how well BC students do on almost all academic measurements both nationally and internationally. My own children are getting a much better education than I received. But you don’t hear that from anyone, do you? Why not? Maybe because that’s part of the plan

    I think conspiracy theories are silly fantasy, but political scheming is a reality. I truly believe that we are at a tipping point created by a clever political strategy to destroy public trust in our schools by increasing demands which we can’t meet with current funding, provoking the hardcore leftists in the BCTF to behave in a way to further alienate parents, and in the end shift the “burden” of educational costs to parents directly rather than taxpayers in general by increasing enrolment in private schools.

    According to a recent poll reported in the Province newspaper the people who are least satisfied with BC schools are those who make under 50K a year. Is this group most likely to support a Liberal plan to stand up to the “entitled, overpaid and underworked” teachers? This group may be the political target but they’re also the group most harmed by underfunding of public schools and a shift to privatization. I’d argue the most important benefit of private schools is to allow people to select their child’s peer group, generally high income and high achieving types, since the quality of instruction is not any better. How will that impact the general level of education for those who can’t afford private schools? How will that impact diversity and acceptance of others? How will that impact our democratic values? Christy Clark’s own son attends a private school, and she clearly has no respect for court decisions that contradict her policies. Doesn’t that say it all?

    1. Hi Todd,

      You bring up many thoughtful ideas, including one key thing that I avoided discussing in my post, and that is the unhealthy relationship between the Government and the BCTF (British Columbia Teacher’s Federation). I’m actually going to stay away from this subject beyond saying that the relationship so polarizes the issues that I do not see a resolution any time soon.

      Being an administrator, I am forced into a position where I must comply with my employer and I need to also do my best to support my teachers and students. This becomes a silencing force, and one that I feel hurts our whole field.

      Every administrator is both:
      a) A former teacher and ultimately still an educator.
      b) Someone who has chosen to take on a leadership role.
      We need to share our voices, to lead, when it is toughest to lead… Right now is one of those times. I wish I could do more, but writing this as an informed: Administrator, Educator, Parent and Citizen is one way that I felt I could contribute my voice.

      I don’t see this as a specific call to action for administrators, as many have suggested on Twitter, but rather, I see this as a call to action for every concerned citizen to speak up and say that no matter how you describe it a cut, is a cut is a cut! And cuts to education can not continue, we are at a point where services to students are being decimated and I know that if the proposed cuts for next year happen in our district, and they likely will, then we will take years to recover. There is little room for innovation when recovery is the strategy we are working towards.

      I want to believe that education matters to every citizen and that if enough of us speak up, we can instigate and inspire positive changes.

      1. This is a great post, and the comments show yet again the thoughtfulness and passion of educators.

        A concern I have though, is the position of administrators that they are “forced into a position” … just like teachers are taking risks like job action, administrators can as well. With the type of government that we are dealing with (and quite frankly, even if we weren’t), it has always struck me a LUDICROUS that teachers and administrators are part of different governing bodies. It wasn’t always like this, and it doesn’t have to be now. If teachers and administrators actually joined forces, combining their energy, time, commitment and intelligence, THAT might provide a formidable opposition to the government, result in real change, and put the control of education where it belongs, with those who know about and care about kids and educations: Teachers, administrators and CUPE. The divide and conquer tactics that the government uses, it uses because it CAN. Shame on us for allowing it, and not recognizing that we have other options.

        1. Thank you Dani!
          You address the reasons why I wrote this post, why I mentioned this post to our Board Chair, why I wrote in a survey for Chapter Council that we need to speak up, and why I have asked my district principal’s association president to bring up the topic of Principals and Vice Principals taking a stand with the Provincial principal’s association president when she visits next week (I can’t make the meeting).

  5. David,

    I’m sure you’re aware that it’s the same all over. Our charter in NM just faced a near-death experience because the governing council has finally come to terms with the idea that state funds will not cover the cost of the high quality education our mission/vision demand that we provide to students. We are down to the bone now, and a skeleton does not make the best teacher. But because of this crisis, (caused by lower enrollment, caused by an increase of special needs students to our school, caused by our school’s remarkable ability to serve their needs better than any traditional public school in town), I have seen our community coalesce into a unified, determined force that is working to come up with the extra funding required, and the organizational fortitude to demand policy-change at the state level. It’s because our school, despite the challenges we’ve faced, is an amazing learning community that teaches inquiry skills with such effectiveness that our first graders have been said to have better critical thinking and problem-solving skills than college juniors.
    I feel your pain, literally. I may not have a job after next school year. If I can offer you anything, it’s a reminder that the lack of funding is evidence of our society’s rot – an organic process we cannot successfully fight. Your schools, and ours, are evidence of the growth of the seed within. The tiny sprout requires vigilant protection to survive. You are a worthy champion. Keep your eye on the prize – the fruit that comes from these human beings we serve. Onward and upward!

    1. Love the metaphors Amalia,
      I’m hoping that we can cultivate a gardening culture where we have a community of concerned and caring people within and beyond our schools, helping us grow, rather than waiting for things to decay.

  6. It is going to be interesting to see if you get spanked for speaking up. You might have started something if you don’t, so lets hope you don’t.

    I enjoyed the post and really appreciate the time you took to put together a balanced rational post. I am afraid I can’t do that. I am working on a post right now that regardless of how I spin it, turns into a rant after the first two sentences.

    One of the things I am trying to get my head around is how Christy is managing to blend a fiscal conservative ethos with a heavy dose of libertarian ideology “every man woman and child for themselves and be damned with those who get trampled… They probably deserved it!”

    How do we work with that? Or perhaps the better questions is how do people get on board with that? Especially when @bcliberal policies are serving such a small percentage of the population.

    All I know is the spin doctors the @bclibs have working for them are far better than the ones the @bctf have on the dole.

  7. Hi Keith,
    I’m not sure what I would get ‘spanked’ for?
    In my post, I base most of what I say on NDP Education Critic Rob Fleming’s public statements. And in the detailed comment response to Mr. Laberge, I quote my superintendent, from a local newspaper. If they both have the freedom and liberty to address their concerns, why wouldn’t I?

    The ‘spin’ that I most worry about is that no one seems to be talking about cuts to education, but they are happening. If I give you $10 to use in your budget, but I tell you that you have to give me back $2 in charges, (which I previously didn’t ask you to pay)… then I have given you $8. I have cut what was provided to you. This is the story that isn’t being told.

    1. Unlike you, I don’t tend to see the “positives” around me and I LOVE conspiracy theories. When I say spanked, I mean there is someone out there who won’t be happy about an administrator speaking out even if it is based on facts. Don’t be surprised if you get some push back.

      Good on ya!

  8. I feel the need to comment on some of the observations made by Mr Laberge.
    Many years ago, the Provincial Government changed the funding to a per-pupil dollar amount. Unfortunately, a building, whether it is half-full or bursting at the seams, remains the same building and utility & maintenance costs remain the same. No one has invented a school that shrinks and expands with enrolment, and yet the budget allocation does so. Any cost saving measures that Mr. Laberge suggested cost districts money to implement, which is money that School Boards would have to reallocate from classroom funding.

    One other major financial change implemented by the Province was to, firstly, change the testing qualification levels by which challenged students are entitled to support funding, and, secondly, lump that money into the per pupil grant in a manner that seems to make it less-likely to be directly allocated to the student in need. Schools struggle to find the money required to hire specially trained teachers and support staff to work with this population of students.

    For me, as a 20-year veteran of the B.C. system, I have yet to see a pay increase that somehow compensates for many years of 0%. We are always told that it’s just not a good time to ask, and yet the pols vote themselves pay raises and give gold-plated salaries and severances to those who run their corporations. I would feel better about 0% if my leaders were actually leading, and I would be fine with a small compensatory top-up in pay and yearly inflation-adjustments in pay for the rest of my career.

    Teachers are not greedy, and we are certainly not lazy. I have taken the time to write this short missive after having completed 4 hours of marking today (Sunday), and I will be planning my school-week after I finish my dinner. I have money deducted from my paycheque to help pay for the benefits that I receive AND as taxes to pay for, wait for it, health care and education in B.C.. As a taxpayer, I would like to see those two areas receive an increase in funding.

    B.C. enjoys a reputation in the world as having a wonderful education system, but we are getting tired of propping it up while we see freezes and cuts to funding and to salaries

    1. Brian,
      I can only say ‘Thank you’ for clarifying the issues and for exemplifying what it means to be a caring educator. You have truly added value to ‘our’ conversation.
      Again, thank you!

  9. David, I am retiring after some 40 years of being a teacher, with 23 of them in British Columbia. As much as I love what I do, I am very happy to be leaving the profession – and this province. From the first week on in BC I was shocked at the combative attitude of governments, media and the public towards teachers. Of course, the underfunding of education in this province is part of a political agenda: we have a government that openly admitted in court that they had no intentions of negotiating a contract with the teachers, wanted to force a strike and hoped to have public support for imposing a legislated contract – after they ripped up our original one illegally. This is the neo-con agenda: create a crisis of confidence in the public system through underfunding so that the parents will support the privatization of education and to break the unions. Reagan, Maggie Thatcher, Mike Harris, they’ve all tried it, and now Clark and Harper are doing the same thing. I spend hundreds of my own dollars to provide resources for my students, but I earn $20,000 less than I would in my old school district in Ottawa, and I teach 7 classes, not six. Would you be a teacher in BC?

    1. Andrew,
      One thousand thank you’s!
      I have the utmost respect for a 40 year teaching veteran. Your story of being happy to leave is telling though. Your perspective on underfunding is insightful, but not as insightful as this, “I spend hundreds of my own dollars to provide resources for my students”. No other profession asks or expects this, but that is what caring educators do. That is an underlying part of the issue… That educators will ‘make do’, ‘make the most of it’, ‘and even ‘chip in’… All the while trying to do more with less.
      I wish you luck and happiness in your new adventures and hope that you are taking with you many positive and enriching memories.

  10. Thank you for your brave stand in clarifying the reality of what the schools are actually facing rather than the fictional world of the Mr. Laberge. Mr. Laberge’s comments reek of entitlement, of one who takes for granted that there are always more luxuries to cut. These people never get to the point where they have to choose between food or rent. Rather they tell us to just cut the waste. And before anyone suggests that I should get a job in the real world to see how efficient corporations and businesses are, I can say that I have, and I made more money in business. I chose teaching to make a difference in kids lives. Yes, I knew coming in, that teachers made a lot less, but that doesn’t mean I should have to apologize for wanting to make enough to look after my wife and children.

    These cuts are also, incredibly, detrimental to the economy. Before I became a teacher, the school that I taught at had the woodworking shop sit empty for five years because there wasn’t a qualified teacher to fill the position; trades of course paying more than teaching. But, I took the position, even with the reduction in salary to make an impact. The real cost of the cuts is that class sizes have ballooned and the number of special needs students per class is rising. At one time, the maximum number of students in a woodworking class was 24. That number went down with the number of special needs students. Now, those classes often have more than 30 and several special needs students, some who don’t know why they shouldn’t randomly turn on table saws or bandsaws randomly. In the end, after teaching many woodworking classes, many of my students now making more than I do, I quit teaching woodworking. If there are fewer skilled trades people, it is directly connected to the lack of education funding.

    In saying this, thanks again Principal Truss for saying the difficult things that need to be said.

    1. Thank you Trevor,

      I left a job as a Starbucks Manager to go into teaching. I had to spend a year doing pre-requisite courses just in the hope of getting into Teachers College. After 2 years of little or no income, I became a teacher and worked another 3 or 4 years before my salary made it to the salary I had when I left Starbucks. And if I had to make the choice all over, I’d do it again.

      These cuts are a threat to our students and their futures, and so you are right, these cuts are indeed detrimental to the economy!

  11. Alas, you are only one brave voice speaking out. Where are the other voices of district leadership teams across this province? Where are the other administrators?

    I can only presume they agree with what this government is doing as silence means consent.

    Thank you so much for having the courage of your convictions.

  12. “The money is the money.” This is a perfectly succinct summary of the priority held by bureaucracies governing societies where the rich get richer. What you speak of simply affirms the insights of H.G. Wells regarding the dynamics of power (The Time Machine). Where those with no voice are the first sacrificial fiscal lambs, those with little voice will inevitably follow. Given the current iteration of democracy, the cannibalization of institutions entrusted with the job of empowering people should not be surprising. With political reform in the hands of those benefiting from the status quo, I think our greatest hope for change comes from the unfettered exchange of information within social media. Your voice (while you still have it) is important David. I salute your courage and integrity for speaking out.

  13. Thanks for providing the building-level analysis. I felt tears coming to my eyes as I read your thoughts and carried on to the comments. I am so grateful for your voice, and wish others felt like they could speak up. It has been a tough month.

    I, too, am so excited to be in education right now. I want to focus on the teaching and learning; I am so energized by the work I see being done across the world in this field. So, it alarms me when I rip open my pension statement to see how much longer I have to deal with the discouraging cutbacks and disparagement from the public when I stand up for students, and yes, myself. I don’t want to be happy to leave this profession, I want to happy I got to be here.

    I am worried that the government is burning through the good will and energy of a teaching force that will need to be ready for implementing new curriculum and assessment practices. We have significant challenges ahead, and it will take collaborative teams at all levels of the system to do our best work.

    Anyway, David, thanks again.

  14. Hello David, I am Melissa Keeler in EDM310 at the University of Alabama. I live in MS and I am seeing the leeching of public school funds here as well. They have cut Art classes out completely in the Middle schools (even though they still get a grade for it on their report card) How you may ask? Because instead of having a classical art class they are handed out coloring pages and crayons, this is the public school system’s idea of art in MS. Along with dropping enrichment classes, all extra funds go into the football teams (who do not do very well). So unfortunately the students who are not blessed with sport ability (or a local “money” family name) are completely left out. It is truly sad and unfortunately I do not see it getting better any time soon.

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