Will the BC NDP put an end to over two decades of underfunding in our public education system?

May 5, 2023 | 42-4, Blog, Community, Governance, Legislature, Question Period, Sessions, Video, Well-being | 0 comments

Public schools in B.C. have been chronically underfunded for years. Now, multi-million budget shortfalls are forcing school boards to choose between combining classes, cutting programs, or relocating students. The BC NDP must put the needs of students first.

Vancouver School Board is facing a $5.9 million deficit this year — Saanich is looking for another $1.7 million. The BC NDP promised to do better than the 16 years of well-documented neglect under the BC Liberals but unfortunately all we’re seeing is more of the same.

This government says the right things — we hear that “our children are the most precious resource we have” — but this rhetoric doesn’t reflect their actions. BC’s austerity in public schools translates to no funding for aging tech, teaching materials & structural deficits.

In 2018, a government review panel issued a report that recommended a new funding model to ensure ongoing, sustainable support for students & teachers. We are 6 years into the BC NDP’s reign & these changes are nowhere to be seen.

In the first few years, we heard a lot from the BC NDP about public schools — in the last few, silence. There was nothing in Minister Rachna Singh’s mandate letter or service plan about the panel’s recommendations. Clearly, it isn’t a priority for this government.

Today I asked Premier David Eby when he will end more than two decades of underfunding in our public education system. He refused to answer & instead had his Minister of Housing take the question. Predictably, Minister Kahlon ignored the budget shortfalls altogether.

We keep hearing from this government about “record investments”, but the BC NDP knows this is dishonest. The Supreme Court required them to make those investments after a landmark legal battle in 2016 & inflation continues to minimize their impact.

In opposition, the BC NDP repeatedly attacked the Liberals for underfunding education. They’ve had 6 years to make changes yet our public schools are still strapped for cash. Premier Eby must act to ensure school boards aren’t forced to make cuts due to inflationary pressures.


A. Olsen:
During last fall’s legislative session, the now-Minister for Post-Secondary Education said our children are “the most precious resource we have.”

I agree with the minister on that, but this government’s actions do not reflect the rhetoric. The reality is, public schools in British Columbia have been chronically underfunded for years, with school boards across the province continuing to face budget shortfalls as a result of this government’s policies. Vancouver school board is facing a $5.9 million shortfall this year, forcing the board to choose between actions like combining high school classes together, moving or discontinuing valuable
educational programs or relocating students to cover the deficit. The much smaller Saanich school district is looking for $1.7 million, likely to be funded out of reserves.

This so-called progressive government promised to do better for our children than the 16 years that they complained about the previous government. My question is to the Premier. Will he reverse the more than two decades of underfunding in our public education system?

Hon. R. Kahlon:
I want to thank the member for his question.

The member will know, and we have and numerous times in this House spoken about, the importance of education for our kids. I know the Minister of Education finds that the most important role that she has, both as a mom as well as a Minister of Education, is making sure that all kids in our communities have the funding that’s needed.

The member will know that funding per student has gone up by 24 percent since 2017. That’s a significant increase in funding. We’ve seen significant funding for building new schools, making sure that we have educators available, and we’re going to continue to do that, because we know that investments in our children are investments in the future.

Mr. Speaker:
Member, supplemental.

A. Olsen:
As we just heard in this response, the government has continually claimed that they fixed the problems in public education, but the reality that many school districts are facing in this province reflect a completely different reality. It’s essentially an austerity system in our public education system.

We often hear about the record investments that have been made under this B.C. NDP government, but those are disingenuous. The court required many of those investments to be made.

A new agreement with teachers — an important investment, absolutely — does nothing to support replacing the aging tech and teaching materials that many of our school districts are facing and many other structural deficits that they’re facing every single budget year, including this year.

In 2018, this government’s review panel report recommended changes to the funding model. In the first couple of years, there was a flurry of activity, but in the last couple of years, there has been silence. Nothing in the minister’s mandate letter. Nothing in the service plan about those recommendations. It appears to not be a priority for this Premier.

The members of this government know that we need to do better, given how frequently they eviscerated the official opposition now for underfunding education when they sat on this side of the House. The needs of students and teachers need to be put first. We’ve seen this Premier roll out the Homes for People plan and the jobs for workers plan. When are we going to see a public education for students plan?

Hon. R. Kahlon:
There was a lot there. I want to thank the member for the question.

Yes, we’re very proud of the Homes for People plan that we’ve launched. We’re very proud of our Future Ready plan that was announced just recently, making sure that all people in British Columbia — young, those that are transitioning in the workplace — have the opportunities to get the skills they need to be able to be competitive in the in the market.

I think it’s important for the member to know, which I’ve already highlighted, that we’ve increased the budget for education per student funding by 24 percent since 2017. I’m glad he highlighted the agreement that we had with teachers, because those investments are about making sure we support our educators to make sure that we are able to provide the highest level of education.

The member will also know that when we formed government, we were the second worst, when it came to funding, in the country. Now we are the second best. Our goal is always to continue to improve that.


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