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Teacher Newsmagazine   Volume 25, Number 6, April 2013  

BC—the worst record in Canada 

Public school funding

BC falls behind in K–12 funding as a per cent of GDP 

Since 2002–03, BC has fallen behind the rest of Canada on its commitment to funding public education. In 2002–03, British Columbia spent 3.6% of our Gross Domestic Product (GDP) on BC public schools, higher than Canada as a whole. But after 2002–03, British Columbia quickly fell behind the rest of the country, reducing K–12 funding to 3.3% of GDP. By 2009–10, BC ranked second-lowest among the provinces in K–12 funding as a percentage of GDP.

BC ranks lowest on several key funding indicators  

Statistics Canada data shows funding for elementary and secondary public schools increased in all provinces between 2006–07 and 2010–11, but less so in BC.

BC ranks the lowest (10th) among the provinces in terms of percentage increase in public school funding between 2006–07 and 2010–11 for total expenditures, operating expenditures, and operating expenditures per student. Even after adjusting for inflation, BC ranks the lowest (10th) among the provinces for total expenditures per student and total expenditures per capita.

BC falls further behind Canada in per-student funding 

In 2007–08, per-student funding (operating expenditures–current dollars) in BC was $73 above the national average (Canada).

By 2010–11, per-student funding in BC was $988 below the national average (Canada).

Student-educator ratio

The student-educator ratio in Canada improved over the decade as most provinces hired more educators in elementary and secondary schools. The student-educator ratio in BC has seen little improvement since 2001–02. BC’s student-educator ratio (16.8 students per educator) is considerably higher than the national average (13.8 students per educator).

Most other provinces hired more educators during a period of declining enrolment. Between 2006–07 and 2010–11, FTE educators increased in all provinces except BC. FTE educators increased by an average of 3.2% across Canada and decreased by 3.7% in BC.

Financial vulnerability

BC citizens the most economically vulnerable 

A 2011 special report by TD Bank found that households in BC are the most economically vulnerable in Canada.

BC recorded the highest Household Financial Vulnerability index, at 10.4, in 2010 (first three quarters). This index increased by 20.2% in BC since 2006, second only to Alberta at 27.9%.

For the first three quarters of 2010, BC had the only negative personal savings rate in Canada, at –4.2%. The next lowest was Atlantic Canada, at 0.7%. The Canadian average was 3.9%.

BC also had the worst debt-to-income ratio, at 160.5%. Alberta was the next worst, with 143.2%, while the Canadian average was 127%.

…and you should also know

Overall poverty

BC records the worst overall poverty rate  

In 2010, BC recorded the worst overall poverty rate (all persons), higher than any other province, for both the before-tax (15.5%) and after-tax (11.5%) poverty rate, as reported by First Call, citing Statistics Canada data.

Child and family poverty

BC records persistently high child poverty rates over the decade  

Over the past decade, BC experienced persistently high child poverty rates, the worst of all provinces for most years. Between 2002 and 2009, BC recorded the highest after-tax child poverty rate for eight years in a row, according to First Call’s 2012 Child Poverty Report Card.

Many of these families live in severe poverty 

First Call’s 2012 Child Poverty Report Card shows that many of these families live in severe poverty, with annual incomes thousands of dollars below the poverty line. On average, the 2010 income for a family of four living in poverty was $13,800 below the poverty line.

The failure to provide adequate income assistance leaves many families in a state of severe poverty, affecting thousands of children. First Call’s 2012 Child Poverty Report Card reports an average of 36,918 BC children in families living on income assistance in 2010.

BC’s social welfare system fails poor families 

Income-assistance benefits for BC families have not kept pace with inflation. According to the National Council of Welfare, between 1998 and 2007, inflation-adjusted annual income-assistance benefits in BC fell by $449 for a lone parent with one child, and by $1,474 for a couple with two children.

Perhaps this is why thousands of BC families are seeking food support. Since 2001, the number of individuals assisted by food banks increased from 67,237 in 2001 to 96,150 in 2012. About 30% of these are children.

Working poor families

BC has the third-highest child poverty rate for working families  

In 2010, 43% of BC children in poverty (41,300 children) were in families where at least one adult worked in full-time, full-year employment, considerably higher than the national average (35%) and almost double the child-poverty rate of families with one or more full-time earners in Quebec (24%).

BC minimum wage well below what families need to survive 

The current minimum wage in British Columbia is $10.25 per hour. According to First Call (2012), the total earnings of a person employed 37.5 hours per week in a large city earning the current minimum wage of $10.25 per hour, would still be $3,000 below the poverty line.

The current minimum wage is well below what is considered to be a living wage for families with children.

Income inequality

Income-gap widens between low- and high-income families  

The First Call 2012 Child Poverty Report Card shows the change in inflation-adjusted family income between 1989 and 2010 for low-income, middle-income, and high-income families with children. In 2010, the average family income of the wealthiest 10% of families with children was $265,578, an increase of $99,381 since 1989. The average family income for the 10% of families in the lowest income group was $19,212, an increase of $858 since 1989.

This means that the increase in income between 1989 and 2009 for the wealthiest 10% of families is about 116 times greater than that for the poorest 10% of families.

BC ranks poorly in income inequality 

In 2009, only Alberta had higher after-tax income inequality than BC. Comparing the disparity of incomes between the highest and lowest of earners, BC Stats reported that, “Compared to other provinces, BC ranked dead last in 2009, with the largest gap between the top 20% and the bottom 20% of income earners.”

The gap between the richest and poorest of BC families widened over the decade. The BC government has done less than other provinces to reduce income inequality.

Post-secondary education

BC behind the national average for undergraduate degrees 

BC ranked 8th, and is behind the national average for undergraduate degrees granted in BC per 100,000 population, according to a 2013 report by the Research Universities’ Council of British Columbia. The authors estimated that “BC would need to increase its university undergraduate degree capacity by over 30% to catch up with Ontario.”

Student debt 

In August 2012, the Canadian Federation of Students–BC called on the BC government to reduce tuition fees and eliminate punitive interest rates on student loans, in response to the Premier of Prince Edward Island’s announcing the elimination of interest on provincial student loans. They note that tuition fees doubled in BC between 2002 and 2005 and the BC government eliminated “up-front” grant programs, adding to the debt load of post-secondary students.

With average student debt in BC at about $27,000 (after completing a four-year degree program), the Canadian Federation of Students–BC “estimates that over the course of a 10-year repayment period, the interest accumulated on the average student loan is approximately $8,000. At prime plus 2.5%, BC currently charges the highest rate of interest on student loans in Canada.”

Compiled by BCTF Research and Information Services. References available on request.