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.]