Parents and teachers pay for B.C.’s education funding gaps as students suffer

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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: In Christy Clark’s B.C., overcrowded classrooms are good enough.

So are school districts so starved for funding, they’re forced to close schools, slash programs or house kids in portables for years of their education.

Here, it’s parents and teachers who get the bills that the B.C. Liberals don’t want to pay – the bills for the playgrounds, school computers and field trips that make our schools what they are.

Despite the closing schools, the overcrowded classrooms, and the growing out-of-pocket expenses putting a burden on parents and teachers, Christy Clark thinks the status quo is good enough.

Worse, she seems to think that a few random acts of education funding during an election year ill make parents forget about years of starved education budgets.

She just doesn’t get it.

Just look at her inaction on Surrey’s overcrowded classrooms.

This year alone, Surrey schools are expecting 1,000 new students. But as the fields of portables across the city show, the B.C. Liberals have utterly failed to plan for this extraordinary growth.

Instead, the Surrey School Board is stuck paying $15,000 to maintain each of the 274 portables it will use this year – adding more than $4 million to their operating budget – while kids are stuck learning in one portable classroom after another, sometimes for their entire education.

I was in Surrey this week, raising awareness about overcrowding. The school I visited, Katzie Elementary, has eight portables – and it only opened in 2014.

Christy Clark’s plan to address portable use falls so far short of keeping up with Surrey’s growth, the 7,000 students learning in portables today would still be learning in portables after the premier’s funding kicks in.

We can, and we must, do better.

We need to solve Surrey’s portable problem. To do so, we need to start working towards the right goal – getting all Surrey kids moved to permanent classrooms – and we need a government that’s willing to make an immediate investment in the future of public education.

Since 2001, the B.C. Liberals have dragged public education funding in this province from the second best in Canada to the second worst.

For kids in Surrey, that’s meant overcrowded classrooms and learning in portables. And for parents across the province, it’s meant a growing bill.

Increasingly, parents and teachers are being asked to pay out of their own pockets for the supplies that schools rely on.

While the B.C. Liberals announce new coding programs, it’s parents who are forced to fundraise for working school computers.  Even buying equipment for school playgrounds and libraries, funding art and music classes, and paying for field trips, frequently falls to parents.

Underfunding our public schools creates winners and losers, and that’s not what public education should be about.

No child should feel disconnected from their peers because they have to learn in a portable. And no child should feel that they don’t have the opportunities that their peers in other public schools enjoy, just because parents at their school have less to donate to fundraising efforts.

Christy Clark thinks parents and kids should just accept that status quo. I think she’s wrong. We need a government willing to invest in our children’s future.