Education was hardly a burning issue in the provincial election, leaving many educators, trustees and administrators — not to mention parents — scratching their heads.
Cash-strapped school districts from Prince George to New Westminster, including School District 43, were expecting to hear something specific about a long-term vision for funding a 21st century education system. But whatever was in the political kit bags of the two party front-runners was lost in debates over who would better handle the economy.
Meanwhile, districts across the province are slashing budgets to keep spending in line with funding. SD43’s funding problems are magnified by revenue and expense miscalculations during last year’s budget process. But SD43 isn’t the only district cutting back and few would argue that the education system is awash in cash.
Rather, it is merely holding the line while expectations for smaller classes, support for special needs and help for children with learning disabilities, technology and other demands increase.
So where was the talk about building a sustainable funding system for schools? Where was the leadership given last year’s labour unrest that resulted in many clubs and sporting events being cancelled?
It was drowned out by political recriminations on both sides. Now though, Premier Christy Clark is re-floating an earlier trial balloon to seek a 10-year labour agreement with teachers. While it’s true that labour peace would surely benefit the education system, it’s hard to see how making the BCTF eat crow so soon after the election (many teachers thought they’d be dealing with a friendly NDP government) is going to bring this about. And because the issue hardly came up, it’s hard to argue the 10-year deal is part of her mandate.
For many people, what’s needed first is a new, more equitable funding formula that doesn’t pit urban school districts against rural districts for scarce cash. Once a long-term vision for funding is revealed, then Clark might be in a better position to work with teachers on the vaunted 10-year labour deal.
But until then, all she’ll accomplish with re-writing the teachers’ labour contract is more instability in schools.
So, um, good luck with that.