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British Columbia scores well below Canadian averages for several key education funding indicators, according to a brief to be presented today by the BC Teachers’ Federation to the Select Standing Committee on Finance.

BCTF President Susan Lambert will urge the provincial government to adopt a plan to begin to bring BC’s education funding and services at the very least up to the national average. 

“We know these changes will take time, and they will require significant reinvestment in public education,” Lambert said. “While we would obviously like to be above average, it is a realistic goal to begin to move up at least to the Canadian national average in the various indicators of educational effort.”

Lambert pointed to the student-educator ratio (SER), which describes the ratio of students to teachers and administrators. BC had the worst SER in Canada in 2009–10, the most recent year for which national statistics are available.

Over the decade starting in the 2001–02 school year, the SER across Canada declined every year to the current average of 14 students per educator. Such was not the case in BC, where it reached as high as 17.7 and now sits at 16.6. (See Chart 1, p. 3.)

“These figures are already worrisome enough, but the true extent of the discrepancy is masked since BC has a higher proportion of administrators to teachers than any other province, so the ratio of teachers to students is even worse than it seems,” Lambert added.

Another telling indicator is spending on Kindergarten to Grade 12 education as a percentage of GDP. Before 2002, when the provincial government stripped teachers’ collective agreements of firm class-size limits and guarantees of services from specialist teachers, BC spent a higher percentage of GDP on public education than Canada as a whole. Since then, however, BC has fallen behind the majority of other provinces. (See Chart 5, p. 12.)

“Even after the global recession in 2008, K to 12 spending as a percentage of GDP increased across Canada, while remaining stagnant in BC,” Lambert said. “This widening gap is leaving BC schools relatively worse off compared to the rest of the country.”

The BCTF is calling on government to begin to increase education funding to bring BC up at least to the national average, a goal that will require a significant commitment:

  • For BC to meet the Canadian average student-educator ratio, we would need 5,800 more FTE teachers at a cost of about $500 million. (Note: This does not include the cost of hiring additional administrators, who are also included in the SER.)
  • For BC to meet the Canadian average in terms of K to 12 funding as a percentage of GDP would require $609 million.

Lambert acknowledged that, as education ministers often repeat, enrolment has declined and education spending has increased. However, despite declining enrolment, the number of students with special needs increased by 1,560 in the last decade. At the same time, more than 750 special education teachers have been cut. Similarly, the number of English Language Learners (ELL) in public schools has grown by more than 1,800 students over the decade, but there are 340 fewer ELL teachers.

“This simplistic narrative of fewer kids and more dollars doesn’t tell the real story. The reality is that costs have also gone up substantially, and funding increases have not been sufficient to preserve the same level of services our students had a decade ago,” she said. “Given the freeze on education funding announced in BC Budget 2012, the situation in BC schools will only worsen unless there is a significant change in policy direction.”

The Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services makes recommendations with respect to the budget consultation paper prepared by the minister of finance. Lambert will address the committee today at 3:35 p.m. at the Wosk Centre for Dialogue, 580 Hastings Street, in ICBC Salon B.

To read the full text of the BCTF Education Funding Brief, see: http://www.bctf.ca/uploadedFiles/Public/Publications/Briefs/2012EdFundingBrief.pdf 

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For more information, contact Nancy Knickerbocker, BCTF media relations officer, at 604-871-1881 (office) or 604-340-1959 (cell).

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