As news comes in from around the province about potential teacher layoffs, school closures, and dramatic budget shortfalls, Minister of Education Margaret MacDiarmid is in denial about her government’s role in these devastating cuts, BCTF President Irene Lanzinger said today.
“From the Lower Mainland and the Island to the North and Interior, school districts are speaking out about devastating cuts they will have to make because of government cutbacks and underfunding,” said Lanzinger. “Instead of taking the warnings seriously, the minister has been busy denying the problem, making up excuses, and blaming school districts.”
At a meeting on Wednesday, the BC Teachers’ Federation Executive Committee unanimously passed a motion condemning the government for putting the blame on school boards for the current underfunding crisis. The BCTF leadership also called on the government to take responsibility and provide the funding needed to protect BC’s outstanding public education system.
“The minister of education likes to talk about record levels of funding, but she never talks about the record levels of downloading her government forces onto school boards,” said Lanzinger. “The minister of education also tries to make excuses by blaming declining enrolment. The problem with the minister’s excuse is that BC’s school enrolment has already started to stabilize.”
This year enrolment declined by 3,500 students spread across 2,000 schools in a province with several hundred thousand students. The decline represents less than one percent with several districts actually recording increasing enrolments.
“That one-percent decline in enrolment is not the reason school districts are being forced to make millions of dollars worth of cuts,” said Lanzinger. “Chronic underfunding and cutbacks are at fault and it’s time the minister admitted her government’s role. Her government cut the 110 million dollar grant used to maintain schools. Her government cut funding for school sport programs and parent advisory councils. Her government downloaded costs associated with BC Hydro increases, MSP premiums, salary increases, and carbon neutrality.”
In her comments to the media about this crisis, Minister MacDiarmid has talked about the choices her government had to make because of the tough economic times. But she hasn’t explained how the millions being spent on Olympic perks, a stadium roof, or endless government advertising are more important than the education of BC’s kids.
“BC’s public education system needs an immediate and substantial injection of new funding,” said Lanzinger. “The alternative will be more school closures, larger class sizes, and less support for children with special needs. It’s time for the government to step up with more funding to prevent these cuts. And it’s time for Minister MacDiarmid to drop the tired lines given to her by the Public Affairs Bureau. Denying the problem is only costing her credibility with education stakeholders and the public.
“If parents, trustees, and teachers work together and speak up, we may be able to get the minister off her message box and onto some real solutions.”