The drastic cuts announced by the VSB in their proposed budget are another telling example of the BC Liberal government’s chronic refusal to adequately fund public education. The New Democrat Official Opposition has decried the government’s neglect of the public education system and see the VSB cuts as a symptom of this neglect.
Together with other Opposition MLAs, I met with the Vancouver School Board on April 8th to discuss how we can work together to address the major budget challenges facing the VSB. On April 12th, I participated with other MLAs and many parents in a public forum hosted by the VSB at Van Tech Secondary.
Despite recent funding promises from the Christy Clark government, the VSB may still face upwards of a $24 million budget shortfall. Without adequate, sustainable public funding, the VSB is left with some very difficult decisions to make. The official opposition raises this issue when possible in the legislature.
As a mother of two children enrolled in the public education system, and as a child rights’ advocate, I share the concerns of many of my constituents that the BC Liberals have routinely underfunded our schools. These ongoing pressures on parents and teachers impede a child’s right to quality, accessible education.
The VSB’s budget shortfall has caused the board to approve a draft plan to close up to 21 schools over the next ten years. School closures have been incentivized through the BC Liberals’ stipulations surrounding support for seismic upgrades, which requires schools to be filled at 95 percent capacity in order to obtain funding.
Relocating students to other schools that are already strained for resources will only further deteriorate the quality of education in Metro Vancouver. All families benefit from adequate classroom support, after-school programming, and arts and culture programs. However, these cuts to education will disproportionately affect children living in poverty, who face socio-economic barriers that make it difficult to learn and thrive.
Alongside my colleague Rob Fleming, Official Opposition Spokesperson for Education, I am gravely concerned about Ministry of Education data reporting today’s class size compositions as the worst to date in the province’s history. The Official Opposition has brought these concerns forward when possible during Question Period. The announced VSB cuts will only exacerbate this problem.
These realities don’t reflect the spirit of the recommendations of the all-party provincial Select Standing Committee on Finance & Government Services, which emphasize the importance of “stable, sustainable and adequate funding to school districts,” while acknowledging the increased costs our districts are incurring.
School closures, layoffs, cuts to special needs support, and increased class sizes don’t match the priorities of British Columbians. I will continue to advocate for the families of Vancouver Mount-Pleasant who are adversely impacted by the VSB cuts, and affirm our constituents’ right to accessible, quality education.
Hli Haykwhl Ẃii Xsgaak