Once again, the teachers of BC are asking the provincial government to heed their calls for adequate funding to meet the increasingly urgent needs of students across the province.
In a comprehensive brief delivered at a hearing of the Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services in Surrey on Thursday evening, the BC Teachers’ Federation’s fundamental request was that committee members “recommend a revision to the education funding system so that the real costs are reflected in the funding for this next budget year.”
“If our students are to be prepared for the demands of the 21st century, we must find ways to meet their educational needs,” the brief states. Most students do succeed: 80% graduate from high school, although Aboriginal students barely surpass the 50% mark, and we all want to increase that percentage. Students in the other 20% need the most support to reach the goal of secondary school graduation. BC schools are seeing:
- more students with special needs, especially a dramatic increase in the Autism spectrum.
- more students identified as having English as a Second Language and twice as many more who, although not designated ESL, don’t speak English at home.
- more Kindergarten students, the leading edge of enrolment increases to come, are now to receive full-day programs, without the extra funding needed to implement them.
At the same time, there are demands for more up-to-date technology in schools even as other costs, such as the requirement for carbon offsets, increase the funding crunch.
“It is because we have the highest needs ever that the government’s oft-repeated refrain about the ‘highest funding ever’ does not satisfy those of us who confront these unmet needs in the classroom,” said BCTF President Susan Lambert. “Our students—everyone’s children—deserve better.”
Using data from the Ministry of Education, the BCTF brief presents tables or graphs illustrating:
- the number of students with high-support special needs has increased.
- the number of classes with four or more students with an Individual Education Plan is up.
- the number of ESL and learning specialist teachers has declined.
- Kindergarten enrolment is on the increase.
- BC’s relative spending on K–12 public education has steadily fallen.
- BC has lost a higher percentage of teachers than other provinces.
- BC falls behind in education spending as a percentage of Gross Domestic Product.
The brief concludes: “The reality is that every year in the last decade, the costs of providing quality educational service have grown faster than funding increases.” The BCTF recommends that “at minimum, funding increases in the second decade of the 21st century restore educational services that were lost in the first decade of the 21st century.”
To read the brief in full, please visit the BCTF website at: www.bctf.ca/BriefsAndPositionPapers.aspx