In the evening of September 17, 2015, BCTF President Jim Iker appeared before the Legislative Assembly's Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services in Nanaimo to submit the Federation's brief on education funding in BC. Iker outlined the need to reverse recent cuts to public education and invest new money to address urgent needs like class composition, implementation of the new curriculum, and growing mental health issues in schools.
In his remarks, Jim Iker thanked the Committee for its last two reports which made strong recommendations for increased public education funding and the government's need to fund its obligations and downloaded costs adequately. “The past recommendations to increase public education funding and address downloaded costs were excellent, but have gone unanswered,” Iker said. “BC teachers strongly urge the Committee to go even further this year and ensure the government puts the needs of schools and students at the top of its priority list.”
The BCTF submission outlines several areas of concern around the state of education funding in BC, including:
- forcing school districts to cut $54 million in a shell game so the government could claim it was fully funding the cost of 2014's negotiated settlement.
- cutting funding to adult education.
- failing to address class composition, which did not improve in 2014-15 and data shows it is still worse than ever before.
“The shell game the government played last year by making cuts and moving money around was exacerbated by ongoing underfunding of downloaded costs to school districts,” said Iker. “The government needs to increase funding to ensure we have workable, manageable classrooms-especially if we are going to successfully implement the new curriculum. The Teacher Education Fund we successfully negotiated last year was only able to hire back the 400 teachers that were laid off. That's not going to solve the class-size and composition issues in our schools. It's time the government made re-investing in education a priority.”
The BCTF's full funding brief can be accessed here. In it, the Federation makes the following seven broad recommendations:
- Act on the recommendations from the Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services of the past two years that have called for additional funding for K-12 public education.
- Increase public education funding to ensure that the Teacher Education Fund is actually adding teachers to increase support for areas of greater need, rather than just making up for other teaching positions that have been cut.
- Reinstate tuition-free education for adults taking adult basic education to upgrade secondary courses so they can apply to post-secondary training programs, and for adults needing to learn English as a second language.
- Increase K-12 public education funding to cover all the costs downloaded to school districts, as well as inflationary costs.
- Provide the time and resources necessary for a successful implementation of the curriculum changes mandated by the Ministry of Education.
- Provide funding to address issues of student mental health.
- Eliminate the funding for independent schools, on a gradual basis, starting by reducing the funding for all qualifying independent schools to 30% of the per capita amount for public schools in the district in which the school is located.