Let’s strengthen public education in BC: Budget 2018
The BC government’s September budget update included significant new funding for K-12 education as expected in light of last year’s Supreme Court of Canada ruling.
This was vital after years of chronic underfunding by the previous government. The new funding to restore class size and composition provisions illegally stripped from teachers’ contracts means that thousands of new teachers have been hired and class sizes are being reduced across the province.
BC Budget 2018 should invest the resources necessary to ensure that students with learning disabilities, special needs and those for whom English is not a first language receive the supports they need to reach their full potential. One in four classes in the public school system had four or more children with special needs during recent school years—marking a dramatic increase over the past decade.
The restoration of class composition contract provisions will go a long way to address the problem, but even before the contract stripping of the early 2000s there was room for improvement in the level of supports available for students. Dedicated resources are also needed to properly fund implementation of the recent curriculum overhaul and to increase the number of educational assistants and other support staff in schools.
BC Budget 2018 should invest the resources necessary to ensure that students with learning disabilities, special needs and those for whom English is not a first language receive the supports they need to reach their full potential.
On the capital side, investment plans should be fast-tracked to relieve overcrowded schools in some districts and complete necessary seismic upgrading to keep all BC kids safe. Capital funds are also needed to cover deferred maintenance needs that have piled up during the long period of underfunding.
Public funding of private schools should be reviewed with an eye to eliminating the practice, particularly in the case of elite private schools that currently receive funding of 35% of the public per student rate. The total public funding of private schools in BC is nearly $400 million this budget year.
On the post-secondary side, the September budget update took the welcome step of eliminating tuition fees for adult basic education and English language learning programs, and expanded tuition waivers for youth aging out of the foster care system. We recommend that Budget 2018 build on this by extending eligibility for tuition waivers from the current age limit of 26 to 30 as well as eliminating fees for other important adult developmental education programs like Adult Special Education and Career Choices, which were also tuition-free prior to 2014.
For public post-secondary institutions, provincial operating grants have plummeted as a share of revenue and institutions have been forced to increase reliance on tuition fees, which is pushing student debt to new heights.
There is a pressing need to increase funding for colleges and universities. For public post-secondary institutions, provincial operating grants have plummeted as a share of revenue and institutions have been forced to increase reliance on tuition fees, which is pushing student debt to new heights. Budget 2018 must also increase financial supports for post-secondary students. We recommend a comprehensive grants program to make post-secondary education free for lower-income families with the future aim of a universal reduction and ultimately elimination of tuition fees.
Topics: Education, Provincial budget & finance