Once again the B.C. Teachers’ Federation is urging provincial legislators to follow through on their own previous recommendations to increase public education funding.
On Sept. 21, B.C.TF president Glen Hansman appeared before the B.C. Legislative Assembly’s Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services in Richmond to submit the federation’s brief on the urgent need for substantially increased education funding to meet the diverse needs of students in B.C.
the need for new resources to implement the revised curriculum and infusion of Aboriginal content, the lengthy waitlists for children with special needs to get support, the inequities facing adult learners, and the growing concerns about mental health issues in B.C. schools.
“For several years now, the Legislative Assembly’s bi-partisan finance committee has made strong recommendations to significantly improve education funding in B.C.,” said Hansman. “Now, it’s time for the government to take the advice of its own members and respond to the growing call to action from parents, teachers, and students. B.C.’s public education system needs a significant and stable increase in funding that addresses years of underfunding and the downloading of cost pressures onto school districts.”
In the brief, the teachers’ federation highlighted that since 2001, the number of students with designated special needs has gone up by 50 per cent and the need for mental health supports has never been higher. However, over the same timeframe, B.C. schools have lost almost 1,700 specialist positions that actually provide those services and supports. B.C. has lost:
• 39 per cent of teacher-librarians
• 12 per cent of school counsellors
• 24 per cent of special education teachers
• 22 per cent of English language specialists
• 4 per cent of Aboriginal educators.
“The impact of underfunding and cuts to specialist teachers has led to worsening class composition in B.C. classrooms,” said Hansman. “In 2007-08, only 15 per cent of all K–12 classes had four or more students with a designated special need. By 2015-16, that figure had risen to 24.6 per cent, a staggering 60 per cent increase in less than 10 years. Teachers in B.C. fully support and value inclusion, but declining and limited supports for children with special needs means every child gets less of the one-on-one and small group time they need.
“With a $2-billion surplus, there’s no excuse for B.C.’s education underfunding crisis to continue. It’s time to re-invest in our public schools.”
Below are the nine main recommendations made:
1) That the Ministry of Education act on the recommendations from the Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services of the past two years that have called for adequate, stable, and predictable funding for K–12 public education.
2) That public education funding be increased to ensure that teachers are added to increase support for areas of greater need.
3) That K–12 public education funding be increased to cover all the costs downloaded to school districts, as well as inflationary costs.
4) That the Ministry of Education provide grants to school districts based on a minimum $1,500 per teacher per year ($60 million) for each of three years to support time and learning resources needed for the current implementation of the redesign of the entire curriculum from Kindergarten to Grade 12.
5) That the Ministry of Education provide substantial new funding resources to ensure that learning resources reflective of every First Nation in British Columbia are developed and readily accessible, in English and French, for all grade levels and all subject areas.
6) That tuition-free education be reinstated for adults taking adult education to upgrade secondary courses and for adult English language learners.
7) That funding be provided to address issues of student mental health.
8) That funding and resources be provided to support the early identification and designation of students with special needs and that appropriate funding be provided for all designated students to ensure that all students have access to an appropriate educational program.
9) That public funding for independent schools be eliminated, over a four-year timeline, with a 2017 funding reduction to 35 per cent and 20 per cent of the per capita local school district rate for qualifying Group 1 and Group 2 independent schools, respectively.