Kids lose out in B.C. education funding games lottery

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John Horgan Leader of the B.C. New Democrats
John Horgan Leader of the B.C. New Democrats
John Horgan
Leader of the B.C. New Democrats

Victoria: Secure, stable, adequate. That’s the kind of funding that B.C.’s public schools need.

Instead, Christy Clark is running our kids’ schools like her own personal lottery – and just like a real lottery, almost everyone is losing.

The B.C. Liberals have starved our schools for a decade. They’ve slashed funding, downloaded costs, and driven our province from the second-best funded education system in Canada to the second worst.

Today, those years of cuts and neglect are taking a toll. Across this province, kids and parents are fighting to save their schools from closure.

But while our province faces a crisis in education, the premier is busy rolling out campaign-style funding announcements that have nothing to do with our kids and their education, and everything to do with trying to make bad headlines go away.

There was another one just last week.

School closures in rural communities have a devastating effect. Just look at Osoyoos, where kids and parents have spent bitter, divisive months trying to save the town’s only high school from closure.

After months of callous indifference, the premier swooped in and replaced a fraction of the funding her government has stripped from rural B.C. schools.

But that announcement arrived after staff in some schools had already been laid off, and as students were already preparing to say goodbye to their local schools. Some of the nine schools targeted in the announcement may be forced to close anyway, simply because the funding will arrive far too late.

That’s the best that kids and parents can hope for in Christy Clark’s haphazard education system – a last-minute lottery win that might not even save their school.

Things are even worse for those who aren’t winners in the premier’s education funding lottery.

This week, parents and kids in Vancouver learned that 12 of their public schools could close by the end of next year – nearly all of them in East Vancouver. One of those schools, Gladstone Secondary, has more than 1,000 students.

Meanwhile, in Richmond, parents protested outside their B.C. Liberal MLA’s office last weekend after news that they would lose five schools in their city.

And in Surrey, parents and kids are still in disbelief after the premier vowed to fix the city’s overcrowded public education system – then announced funding that would barely address the current rate of growth.

More than 240 schools have closed on the B.C. Liberal government’s watch. But none of the premier’s eleventh-hour funding will help the kids whose schools closed when a provincial election wasn’t just a year away.

In Cariboo-Chilcotin, for instance, it won’t help kids who once attended 100 Mile House Junior Secondary, Buffalo Creek Elementary, Glendale Elementary and Kwaleen Elementary. Those schools were all forced to close at the end of the 2013 school year.

In Nanaimo-Ladysmith, it won’t help the kids who lost three elementary schools and a secondary school since the last provincial election. And in Qualicum, it won’t bring back the four elementary schools that closed at the end of the 2014 school year.

What public schools need is secure, stable and adequate funding. That’s the very minimum that parents and kids should be able to expect.

Christy Clark doesn’t agree. She thinks parents and kids should applaud her campaign-style funding announcements. And she thinks these cynical announcements will make B.C.’s kids and parents forget about her government’s shameful record on education.

I think she’s wrong. I think parents are sick and tired of Christy Clark playing cynical political games with our public schools.

Nothing is more important than our kids’ education, and B.C. families need a government that knows that.