Parents in British Columbia, Canada have rallied in support of more funding for public schools while facing tighter budgets.
After a teachers’ strike, schools must now deal with additional budget cuts. Peter Fassbender, BC’s Education Minister, has asked local school boards to cut spending, but the board members say that after years of cutting, there is nothing else that can be taken away. BC already provides $1,000 less per student than Canada’s average, according to Tara Ehrcke of Rabble.ca.
Fassbender replied that:
This is an increase of $1.2 billion compared to 2000-2001, all during a period when enrollment has declined by more than 75,000 students. Part of building a great system, and keeping it great, is finding ways to improve. Our continued success relies on embracing this change.
I fully appreciate that this isn’t always without its challenges, but there’s nothing to be gained by perpetuating a myth that our public education system is underfunded and broken.
Several hundred parents assembled at the Vancouver Art Gallery for a rally, writes Ian Austin of The Province, which was organized by Families Against Cuts to Education.
FACE organizer Quinn Donovan said to the crowd:
The government is trying to balance the budget on the backs of our kids, while increasing funding to for-profit private schools. I think a lot of people thought with the end of the strike there would be renewed funding for public schools.
Jing Wang, a student at Prince of Wales Secondary and a student trustee on the Vancouver School Board, said:
That doesn’t even become an education issue, it’s purely health and safety. I’ve seen in my own secondary school, tiles falling from the ceiling.
I’ve been in the public education system since kindergarten, and I got so many opportunities in music, drama and band and strings. It makes me angry that students in kindergarten now won’t get those same opportunities.
Stacey Penner of Kelowna Now quoted Shelley Courtney, an organizer in Kelowna:
A lot of parents don’t realize they have a voice and that it’s important for them to speak up as well and defend public education.
We live in a democratic society. The cornerstone of a strong democratic society is a strong public education system. As long as we let this government tear away pieces of our education system, the weaker we as a society become.
This parent is speaking up and saying my kids deserve more. My kids are worth more. All of our kids are worth more.
Other similar rallies took place in other locations in the province. According to Cooper and Ackermann of News 1130, many parents and activists take issue with the simultaneous increases in funding for private schools, which is seen as a move to encourage private education.
These protests take place in the wake of the controversial three-part Bill 11. Firstly, it will instate a student data collection system called MyEducationBC. Secondly, it will allow government to mandate school boards to take specific actions, or to appoint a “special advisor” to the board. Thirdly, it allows government to choose how teachers engage in professional development.
Educators and activists are concerned about the amount of influence the government would have on local school districts.