This election I am voting NDP because I am tired of fundraising tens of thousands of dollars every year for basic supplies. I am tired of special needs students spending years on wait lists for support they need to fully participate in their education. I am tired of our school board having to decided which service or support they will cut every year. I am tired of attending consultations for school closures that pit communities against each other in fights over which school deserves to stay open.
I need to talk about education. About the premier's deflection of all questions about more than a decade's worth of underfunding. About how she keeps saying that B.C. students are ranked number one internationally for reading. Because the fact that we rank number one in reading means nothing.
Thirty years ago, school supply lists were quite short, perhaps just two items: pencil crayons and a geometry set. But for a number of years now, the lists have become very long and often include two types of paper: photocopying and toilet. How did we get to this point?
In the novel Nineteen Eighty-Four, the government of Oceania has an entire Ministry that uses all forms of media to create a false reality. In British Columbia today, the Government Communications and Public Engagement office has a budget of $37,900,000 to ensure that you have the correct view of what the B.C. Liberals do for you with your money.
The B.C. Liberals have been cutting funding and supports for public schools. This year alone the government asked school board to find $25 million in "administrative cuts," last year it was $29 million. So this one-time funding announcement is not what I consider to be an addition to funding, but rather a reduction in this year's cuts.
But my joyful relating of this good news will be dampened by the knowledge that there is no funding to make possible the full implementation of the new curriculum. It's as though my students have been given the keys to a car without any money for insurance or gas or maintenance or even driving lessons.
We live in one of the most expensive places to live in Canada, have some of the highest taxes, are one of the only provinces to pay a health premium -- and yet we are second to last in the country for education spending. How can this be?
I didn't expect the province that I grew up in to have changed their priority on public education so much that there will be a lost generation of students.
Here in B.C. our students (if they even qualify) will get $1,200. This might get you one year of textbooks, hardly a progressive move by any means. But our government is using this grant to try and gain support, and they are spending public tax money to push these ads on TV, radio, Internet, newspapers and other media.
The saddest part to me is how much of the public buy into the "lazy, greedy" teacher persona that our government portrays in an effort to justify its constant underfunding of our public schools.