At last a media outlet is getting the lack of education funding in BC right! A Fix-It-Fund is not a big deal, its a no brainer. Its maintenance! Not a new school. Not acknowledgement that public education in the province of BC is struggling and has been for over 12+ years. Boards have done amazingly well over 12+ years to fight for the rights of our children to get an education. Its acknowledgement by a media outlet ….. at last ….. that there are serious problems with our schools …. all on the provincial Liberal government’s watch. Its a problem and a mess the BC Liberals created. I am so angry at their lack of action to acknowledge the problem and I know they are only funding things now because public education funding will be an election issue because parents have lost faith in our government’s ability to properly and adequately fund public education and numerous children have paid the price because they have already graduated. I am outraged and the photo ops are just a reminder of lost opportunities and a slap in the face to me. I am angry. Click here to read the full article or an excerpt below.
BC Premier Christy Clark seen here at Panorama Park Elementary School, announced there will be 2700 new seats available to Surrey students in Surrey, BC. May 20, 2016.
Photograph by: Arlen Redekop , PNG
Angry parents are putting increasing pressure on Premier Christy Clark’s government to do something about deteriorating, overcrowded public schools.
So, with less than a year to go before the next election, let the photo-ops and funding promises begin.
Education Minister Mike Bernier was up first, announcing a $45-million “Fix-It Fund” to pay for 80 school-repair projects around the province. The money will pay for things like roof, furnace and fire-alarm repairs.
“If your roof starts to leak, you’re not going to let it leak,” Bernier said. “You want to repair that.”
Does the government deserve credit for doing routine maintenance on schools? Parents’ advocate Jen Stewart doesn’t think so.
“This is basic stuff that has to be done no matter what, but the government doesn’t always do it,” said Stewart, from the group Familes Against Cuts to Education. “What about the crumbling schools that haven’t made the government’s funding list for years?”
Good question, but you can bet there will be more announcements to come as the May 2017 election gets closer.
In the meantime, anger is growing at a quicker pace in fast-growing cities like Surrey, where enrolment is surging and many schools are overcrowded. That brought the attention of the premier herself, who announced $100 million for six priority school projects in the city.
“Families are making a choice to call Surrey home and that’s driving incredible growth,” said Clark, while promising “rapid expansion” of the Surrey school system with six projects.
The government will also purchase land for a future new elementary school in Port Kells, Clark announced.
All badly needed projects. And all in ridings currently held by Clark’s Liberal Party, which the government said was just a coincidence.
“The school board tells us where the schools are needed,” the education ministry said in a statement.
What a lucky break for Liberal MLAs Stephanie Cadieux and Marvin Hunt that these priority projects landed in their Liberal ridings as they seek re-election.
NDP education critic Rob Fleming didn’t complain about that – “These are fast-growing areas,” Fleming said – but he did gripe that the government is not doing enough. Not even close.
“We have 1,000 new students in Surrey each year,” Fleming said. “We have thousands of students being taught in portables in Surrey. This won’t address all the pressures we have now, never mind the new ones next year and beyond.”
Fleming uses the example of Katzie Elementary School in Surrey, which was designed for 500 kids but is now stuffed with 900 students spilling out into portables.
“I did a visit there and a school official told me they were even holding classes in a school hallway until the fire marshal shut it down,” Fleming said. “The kids got shuffled out to a portable and they said they missed the hallway classes because it was warmer.”
What does the education minister think about that? He hadn’t heard about it.
“No, I’m not familiar with what he (Fleming) brought forward,” said Bernier, who insisted the government is spending enough money on the school system.
“We’re at record funding this year,” he said, though it’s not enough to prevent other tales of overcrowded and run-down schools. Like Vancouver’s Simon Fraser Elementary, which was designed for 200 kids but is expecting 300 to enrol this fall.
“They had to turn the computer room into a classroom,” said Stewart, the parents’ advocate. “Kids are the ones who suffer.”
Then there’s Bayside Middle School near Victoria, where they found mould in the walls after they finally got around to fixing a roof that had been leaking for decades.
“A long-ignored roof repair that was supposed to cost $2 million turned into a health hazard that will now cost $7 million,” said Fleming. “This is what happens when the government ignores basic maintenance.”
And there’s the 67-year-old New Westminster Secondary School, where parents have complained about asbestos, exposed wiring and even mice and rats.
“The system is underfunded, parents know it and they’re speaking up,” said Fleming. “That’s why you see the government making some announcements now. They’re feeling the heat.”
The New Democrats are determined to take the fight to B.C. voters.
“It is absolutely shaping up as a key election issue,” Fleming said.
With the NDP poised to promise deficit budgets – while Clark’s Liberals vow to keep the budget balanced – the New Democrats will try to attract votes with promised big spending on the education system.
Clark will try to blunt those promises with more funding announcements in a school photo-op campaign that is only just starting.