Public education

Public education

Across the province, British Columbians are feeling the effects of a changing economy. In many places, the cost of living has become so high that many families are struggling to make ends meet. In other parts of the province, job growth is negative or stagnant. At the same time, employers are predicting a potential shortfall of 514,000 skilled workers over the course of the next decade.
 
We have an affordability crisis and an education gap in B.C. Due to chronic underfunding of our public education system, We need a bold plan so that British Columbians can feel secure about their futures.
 
The B.C. Greens Lifelong learning strategy focuses on the following realities:
  • The nature of work is changing. If current trends continue, Canadians can expect to hold 15 jobs throughout their careers.

  • Cost of living has increased exponentially, while incomes have not. Parents and families are feeling the squeeze and need bolder solutions so they can raise their children without the stress of paying for costly childcare.

  • Our public education system is chronically underfunded. This isn’t just tough on kids and families, it also ignores that education is the best investment society can make.

Without updating our education system now, many of us will continue to struggle to earn a stable and secure income throughout our lives.  
 
The BC Greens are offering a concrete plan to remodel our education system for the emerging economy. We will implement evidence-based solutions to ensure all British Columbians receive the educational support they need to live healthy, fulfilling lives.
 
Our Lifelong Learning Strategy will be accomplished through 8 components:
  1. Invest in early childhood education
  2. Invest in education for the emerging economy
  3. Provide a healthy start for school children
  4. Invest in professional development for teachers
  5. Ensure equitable access to public education
  6. Alleviate the burden of student debt
  7. Assist youth in finding employment
  8. Invest in worker skills, upgrading and retraining

Invest in public education for the emerging economy

Results
  • Reduce social discrepancies between schools.
  • Improve the ability of schools, teachers and students to adopt technology.
  • Provide free adult education for high school graduation regardless of age.
  • Better address student mental health issues.
  • Better support students with special needs through early identification and ongoing support.
  • Address underfunded cost pressures for school districts.
  • Provide students with resources to address all of their needs.
Background
  • In 2002, under Education Minister Christy Clark, the provincial government stripped language related to class size and composition from teachers’ contracts and took away their right to negotiate those issues in future bargaining.
  • Over the ensuing years, school districts eliminated hundreds of jobs, resulting in substandard classroom conditions and overburdened teachers.
  • Following a lengthy and costly court battle, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that the B.C. government had bargained in bad faith with the union. In January 2017, under an agreement with the BCTF, the Ministry of Education will provide $150 million in new funding for the current 2016/17 school year. In March, the B.C. Liberals announced they would provide another $150 million to restore classroom sizes to 2001 levels, an additional $30 million for additional costs associated with more teachers in the system.
  • This amount will not restore education to where it was in 2001. School districts face additional costs imposed by a number of new pressures, for example, carbon neutral government, new technology, field trips and learning aids.
  • The B.C. government cut funding for adult education in 2014. Now, adults wanting to upgrade their high school courses in order to pursue post-secondary studies are burdened with tuition. This prevents adults who desire to train for jobs in the emerging economy and sectors that are experiencing job growth, like health care, from getting the qualifications they need to fill those jobs. Researchers have called B.C. a “Canadian outlier” for failing to adequately fund adult education. Adult enrollment has fallen by nearly 38% since tuition fees were introduced for adult education.

Budget implications: $4.022 billion over 4 years: $250 million in 2017/18; $986 million in 18/19; $1.3 billion in 19/20; $1.48 billion in 2020/21.

Results
  • Reduce social discrepancies between schools.
  • Provide free adult education for high school graduation regardless of age.
Background
  • The B.C. government cut funding for adult education in 2014. Now, adults wanting to upgrade their high school courses in order to pursue post-secondary studies are burdened with tuition. This prevents adults who desire to train for jobs in the emerging economy and sectors that are experiencing job growth, like health care, from getting the qualifications they need to fill those jobs. Researchers have called B.C. a “Canadian outlier” for failing to adequately fund adult education. Adult enrollment has fallen by nearly 38% since tuition fees were introduced for adult education.

Budget implications: $10 million per year.

Provide a healthy start for public school children

Results
  • Improved student health, including a reduction in health issues related to childhood obesity.
  • Better academic performance
Background
  • Research shows many children are not eating the balanced, nutrient-rich diet required for optimum cognitive function.
  • Children who suffer from poor nutrition during the brain’s most formative years score much lower on tests of vocabulary, reading comprehension, arithmetic and general knowledge. For example, studies show that students with the lowest amount of protein in their diets showed the lowest achievement in test scores.
  • Students who participate in daily physical education exhibit better attendance, a more positive attitude towards school and superior academic performance.
  • This investment will enable all B.C. children to have the healthiest start possible so that they are best positioned to learn the knowledge and skills they need to succeed in the emerging economy.

Budget implications: $35 million over 4 years.

Invest in professional development for public school teachers

Results
  • Students will have the skill to survive and thrive in the emerging economy.
  • Teachers can excel in their careers.
  • Reduced stress and mental health issues for teachers.
  • Students develop a passion for lifelong learning.
Background
  • In 2016, the province began the transition to the new K-12 curricula, that are designed to ensure that “students get the skills they need to succeed in our changing world.” While the B.C. Greens support this concept, we believe further investment is required in order to implement it.
  • In September 2016, the BCTF recommended that “the Ministry of Education provide grants to school districts based on a minimum of $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.”
Program logistics
  • Training will be delivered in collaboration with the BCTF, school districts, parents and the Ministry of Education;
  • Several B.C. teachers have been using the interdisciplinary teaching model and have been key leaders in the development of the new curricula. Training will be delivered by teachers and experts from within B.C. in order to enable the development of community-oriented approaches, as well as facilitating the cost of implementation.

Budget implications: $140 million over 3 years.

Results
  • Ensure that B.C.’s teachers are second to none.
  • Address shortages in specific disciplines.
  • Reduce the rate of attrition especially in the first five years of teaching.
  • Increase the number of Indigenous teachers in the system.
Background
  • In B.C., too many teachers are being certified with certain teachable disciplines while too few are being certified in others. New teachers who have a teachable discipline in demand are actively recruited and quickly employed while others spend many years on Teacher On Call lists, underemployed, underproductive and discouraged. This also impacts quality of instruction as schools struggle to fill all the required positions.
  • Teachers are tracked and trained as a homogenous group, which is not how they are hired by school districts. Given the upcoming hiring spree due to the B.C. Government announcement to hire 2,600 new teachers, B.C. faces a potential major issue in the under qualification of its teachers.
  • Indigenous teachers are under-represented in the teaching professions. Attracting more indigenous teachers is important so that they can meet the needs of indigenous children in terms of language, cultural understanding and role modeling. Greater diversity amongst teachers creates more opportunities for all B.C. children to engage in cross-cultural learning.
  • This initiative will be developed in active consultation with teachers to develop policy and implementation.

Budget implications: work within existing budget.

Results
  • Ability to direct funding to meet the areas of greatest need.
  • More local autonomy regarding funding priorities and distribution.
  • More effective distribution of funds.
Background
  • Current funding is based on a per-student allocation and does not account for differing needs of students or locations.
  • Local decision-making enables more appropriate distribution of funds.
  • In a February 2017 letter from the BC Confederation of Parent Advisory Councils, the Minister of Finance was asked to “Allow the Ministry of Education to re-examine, recalculate and rework the ministry funding formula to address and fully fund all structural deficits and new programs mandated by the government.”

Budget implications: no new funding required.

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