In her presentation to BC’s Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services, BCTF President Irene Lanzinger told government and opposition members that improving the lives and education of children must be the priority for next year’s provincial budget.
“Child poverty is on the rise, parents are struggling to find childcare, and kids in our classrooms are paying the price for too many broken government promises,” said Lanzinger. “It’s time this government put the interests of BC’s kids first. The BC Liberal government can start by fulfilling their promise to reduce class sizes and support children with special needs.”
Lanzinger used her time in front of the legislative committee to outline five key priorities the government must address in 2009:
- Eliminate child poverty: set a target, create a plan, and take action.
- Provide a universal childcare program and fully fund early literacy programs.
- Restore services to students with special needs.
- Reduce class sizes so that all children get adequate attention to their learning.
- Fully fund costs the province has downloaded onto boards of education.
“In 2006, the government passed legislation to reduce class size and improve conditions for students with special needs. We’re still waiting to see the funding needed to make that happen. Across the province there are thousands of overcrowded classes and too many special needs students waiting for support.
“The government uses declining enrolment as an excuse to defend its broken promises and 177 school closures, but we know it’s only a temporary dip. The ministry’s own data shows how shortsighted the cutbacks and closures have been. It’s time for this government to make education funding a real priority and protect public education.”
The BC Teachers’ Federation president also took the opportunity to express her concerns over BC’s record on child poverty and childcare.
“BC is falling behind the rest of Canada when it comes to helping families living in poverty,” said Lanzinger. “Combined with the absence of an affordable universal childcare program, poverty is putting incredible pressure on families. Teachers see the impact of poverty on children every day in the classroom. BC must do more to help those children and their families.”