In the classrooms at my school, students who get a $60,000 car for their 16th birthday sit next to students who walk an hour each day to and from school because bus-fare is an unaffordable expense. Students who go home to their own bedrooms equipped with the latest technologies, collaborate on projects with students who don’t have a bed to call their own. And students who struggle to read a sentence in the third language they’ve had to learn grasp desperately for meaning when their fluent peers speak.
The conceit of public schools is that our classrooms will somehow be the levelling space of these stark socio-economic differences through the provision of an equitable education.
Teachers who spend an average of $1600 on classroom supplies each year do so in the hope that the right resources will magically bridge the chasm between what is funded and what is needed.
Stories of families who have had to sell their homes in order to pay for learning supports for their children are heart-wrenching. Now just imagine what happens to those children whose families have no such assets, whose parents are simultaneously battling the legacies of colonialism and poverty.
Because public schools are often the only places where marginalized people can access support, insisting on classroom composition language in teachers’ collective agreement should not be seen as a luxury the government cannot afford. Especially not a government boasting about billions of dollars in surplus.
It’s astounding that a government that launched a Poverty Reduction strategy to great fanfare continues to ignore calls for more funding for public schools, the very places where the 20% of children who live in poverty in BC get their only meal most days.
This BCNDP government has also made announcements to boost spending on mental health services even while the concessions it’s demanding from teachers would mean a decrease in the number of counsellors available for students in many schools.
It makes no sense.
In their latest survey of donors to their party, the BCNDP promise that they want to “build a better province”.
How is funding students at $1866 below the Canadian national average going to do that?
John Horgan’s plan to ‘build a better B.C’ clearly does not have public school students in mind.
6 thoughts on “Building a Better BC? Really?”
My daughter was one of those kids going to public school in a high-end neighborhood, even though we were living below the poverty line. The discrimination she faced was heart-breaking but it made her strong. When she got straight A’s on her report card, I offered to take her out to dinner. She laughed and said, “Mom, in my school, if you get straight A’s, you’re entitled to a Jaguar.” She figured it out, pretty quick. The report card was a ‘funny’ but there were other incidents that were not funny at all.
Thanks for this perfect illustration of the point Diana!
It was the same in the 60’s when I went to school at McGee in Kerrisdale. Some students lived in apartments, others (whose grades saw them kicked out of private schools) lived in mansions. Corvettes were the common birthday gift of the day. Guess which students applied themselves and made something of their lives and which ones stuffed their trust funds up their noses. Difference back then is school afforded all of them an equal opportunity to succeed. The school library was a fantastic resource and it was open before, during and after school. You could have eaten off the floors as the custodians were there all day, well respected by students and staff alike. There was a full time nurse on staff and a health room. Immunizations were done at school. School councillors were readily available to assist with course selection as well as any issues that may come up in one’s life. There was no such thing as portables. And it didn’t matter what school you visited in whatever area the assists, the equipment in labs and gyms; the level of cleanliness; the field and playgrounds were all of a set standard. There was absolutely no fund raising done by either parents or students. Field trips cost nothing and the well staffed and equipped cafeteria served hot meals five days a week. The only difference between what was available to the haves va the have nots were the keys to a shiny new vehicle and that had nothing to do with school funding or the lack thereof. New schools were built as neighbourhoods expanded and that was the case well into the 90’s. Portables were a temporary measure as new schools were being built. From 2000 on until my youngest graduated in 2008 I saw a steady and ever escalating erosion of much of what had taken decades to put in place. When I attended school in Prince George there was even an outdoor skating rink each winter that was created and maintained by our school custodians. Students, regardless of their social standing wanted for nothing while at school. The only thing my parents were out of pocket for was the cost of material for sewing class. As a parent, my out of pocket expenses increased over the years my children were in school that by the time my youngest graduated I was putting more money out for her than all three children combined in earlier years. And accessing a school counselling near the end of that run, the waiting areas were standing room only for parents and children. It was heartbreaking!
At present your wish of educational equality is just not possible. Is this article about wealth disparity or lack of educational funding? If you go to the root of the problem, it doesn’t really matter as what fixes wealth disparity also fixes lack of educational funding.
Since the early 70’s with Nixon’s republican administration there has been a push-back from big business to gain back controls lost with unions and left wing gov’t decisions. In fact we can actually draw the line between the two philosophies and their dominance with the adoption of the Powell memo https://www.rt.com/usa/357045-powell-memo-corporate-takeover/ as official policy in 1971. This was a blueprint of how corporate take over of the world could be implemented. It sounded quite radical in 1971, but as we can see now, it is bearing fruit.
A lot of noise has been made about wealth disparity as well. It is undeniable that the middle class is shrinking. We also know that as the middle class sloughs off their comfortable membership, families are dropping into the lower financial class far more than they are filling the ranks of newly minted millionaires. With those families goes our tax base. Gov’ts are pressed to find that revenue anywhere else.
In Canada corporate taxes are 25%. Yet, many corporations pay less than that and some, none at all. Some, we even help with corporate welfare. (see Site C in B.C. which backs up LNG industry in B.C.’s north) We give Bigoil $3 billion year. Globally, Bigoil receives $300 billion a year in tax breaks. That’s $300 billion in savings for them and $300 billion a year the rest of the world has to make up somehow.
Furthermore, several areas in our social fabric are the first victims of funding cutbacks. The arts are considered expendable and take the hit first. What do the arts do for society? The arts provide imagination for growth. Secondly, education takes cutbacks. When have we heard of expanded funding to either sector? It’s always cutbacks.
To take it farther down the road, an uneducated public makes democracy impossible. We are seeing exactly that as Europe is courting fascism again and the US being misled with a fool who answers to the 1% at the helm.
Fix these political factors and you’ll fix both the wealth disparity and our education system.
Wanted to share this but lost your email address!
I saw it when you published it and shared it widely. Didn’t realise you had shared it here too!