As the month of August came to a close, the British Columbia School Trustees Association (BCSTA) issued an open letter urging the provincial government and the BC Teachers’ Federation (BCTF) to look beyond the numbers in the ongoing education dispute.
“The issues are complex,” states BCSTA president Teresa Rezansoff in the letter. “This is not just about money.” What is missing in the letter is the fact that the B.C. Supreme Court has declared the BC Liberal government’s 2002 Bill 29 — which stripped class-size and composition language from the teachers’ contract — unconstitutional, which resulted in savings of hundreds of millions of dollars for the government since it paved the way for the closing of almost 200 schools across the province, and the laying off over 3,000 teachers and 1,500 support workers in the years that followed. There is no call for better funding from the province in the letter other than referring to the strike savings. No mention of the illegal actions of the government. No mention of a 2013 Statistics Canada research paper on operating expenditures per student in public and elementary schools , which shows that, in 2010/11, B.C. spent an average of $10,405 a student compared to the national average of $11,393, for a difference of $988.
According to The Globe and Mail, The B.C. Ministry of Education says it calculates per-pupil funding — not operating expenditures — by dividing the total of 2013/14 interim operational grants to school boards ($4.7 billion) by interim full-time enrolment for the same year (544,106). This means the government estimates the 2013/14 per-pupil funding average to be $8,654 — a number that it says has “risen more than 38 per cent since 2000/01,” according to the government. Alberta, which also calculates per-pupil funding this way, averaged $10,111 each for the 2013/14 school year, while Ontario averaged $11,266.
The BCSTA needs to do a better job of advocating for the students for which they are responsible by calling for the government to obey the rule of law, provide more funding to reduce class size, and more funding to provide adequate support for special needs students.