Inflation, bargaining and the impact of restrictive mandates

Contract negotiations for public school teachers and support staff are underway with the backdrop of years of mandate-restricted bargaining and a current period of mounting inflation. What has been the impact of these restrictions on the salaries and wages of those working in BC’s public schools and on the dollars dedicated to public education in BC?  Why has BC’s spending on education as a percentage of GDP slid from 2.8% in 2001 to 1.7% in 2021? Researcher and IPE/BC Board member, John Malcolmson, throughly examines these very timely questions in the latest IPE/BC Occassional Paper.  

The Urgent Need to Tackle Racism

Perspectives is an opportunity for Fellows and others to share their ideas in short, accessible essays. IPE/BC Fellows hold a range of views and interests relative to public education.

The Urgent Need to Tackle Racism

by Noel Herron

Last August, the BC Office of the Human Rights Commissioner launched the first ever public inquiry into hate crimes in BC. In announcing this important step, a year-long thorough investigation, Commissioner Kasari Govender noted that, since early 2020, there has been a significant increase in reported hate-related incidents. “It is critical for all of us to be better prepared to prevent and respond to hate during global health, economic and social crises to protect our human rights during turbulent times,” stated Govender.

The 19 months of the pandemic in B.C. have witnessed almost weekly incidents and events that point to the surge of racism both at a local and a provincial level, some minor, others with wider implications for sectors such as health, policing, education, sports, and politics. This very serious issue affects not just BC but the entire country. Yet, it was deeply disturbing that it was largely ignored during the recent federal election campaign. This, while we bore witness to the traumatic discovery of hundreds of unmarked graves of First Nations children at residential school sites.

Provincially, BC has appointed Rachna Singh as Parliamentary Secretary for Anti-Racism Initiatives with the promise to introduce anti-racism legislation in the next session of the legislature. A public consultation is currently underway. Thinking of public education, that legislation will have to have considerable strength and impact to ensure that racism is tackled in a comprehensive and meaningful way across the province.

What steps have been taking place in education over the past year? On the opening day of the 2021/22 school year, the Vancouver School Board had an online anti-racism training session for all teachers and principals. It followed racist incidents that were brought to light by students and parents who had the courage to speak out and use the BC human rights process. That’s one positive step; however, it took the five separate parties that are currently represented on the board a full year to agree to implement this long overdue initiative. There is so much more to be done.

Last February, the BC School Trustees’ Association followed up on motions carried by the BCSTA Provincial Council the previous year and appealed to the provincial government to provide the additional support needed to implement systemic change in school districts across the province. Acknowledging that some steps had been taken, the BCSTA pressed for comprehensive plans to address the issue.

In August, we learned about a report, mandated by the BC Minister of Education, that found “clearly discriminatory and systemically racist” behaviours and practices in a B.C. school district and called for a province-wide review. This report on School District 57 provided a profile involving one school district. However, retired judge, currently academic director of the Residential School History and Dialogue Centre at the University of B.C, Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond agreed that a deeper probe is needed, stating, “This report was very helpful, but it certainly struck me as a kind of tip-of-the-iceberg report.”

BC’s reckoning with racism is long overdue and we all have a role to play. The creation of a truly inclusive, just, respectful, and caring society needs urgent attention from all levels of government-local provincial and federal. Additionally, it is incumbent on each of us to speak out against racism and, in the context of our all-important public education system, insist that all schools and school districts are modeling the society we seek.

Noel Herron is a retired principal, former Vancouver school trustee and past member of the Vancouver School District Race Relations Committee. He has a long and highly respected career in public education and is well known for his deep commitment to the well-being of students in general and to the needs of marginalized and racialized children and youth, in particular. While principal, Noel served on the Vancouver School District Committee on Racial Justice; he expresses his gratitude to the many race relations consultants and anti-racism advocates he worked with and learned from throughout his career.

FOI Fees Reduce Public Access to Information

Perspectives is an opportunity for Fellows and others to share their ideas in short, accessible essays. IPE/BC Fellows hold a range of views and interests relative to public education.

FOI Fees Reduce Public Access to Information

By Larry Kuehn

Freedom of Information is important to the public in public education. Unfortunately, British Columbia is headed in the wrong direction in proposed changes to Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy (FOIPOP) in the fall 2021 legislature.

Education policies have significant affects on individuals and the society as a whole and should be open to debate and reconsideration. Informed debate on policies can only take place if the relevant information is publicly available. This requires transparency on the part of government and local school authorities.

Too often policies are announced without adequate information about why a choice was made and what alternatives may have been considered. As a researcher and policy advocate, I have in the past asked for information of ministries to understand the basis for a decision–and been told I can only have the information by making a Freedom of Information request.

Frequently this information should simply be provided on request—or even published on the web without a request because it is relevant to public policy. Officials are reluctant to provide the information because it may lead to questioning of policies. If the information is provided because of an FOI request, the official can say they had no choice but to provide it and are less likely to be blamed for a public questioning of a policy decision using ministry information.

The FOI process as it exists is often problematic. One needs to understand precisely what to ask for. The information is supposed to be provided within 30 days, but extensions are more and more frequently requested. You can be told that extensive research is required, and you will have to pay for it. Or you get a document with much of the crucial information redacted.

To provide a specific example, the BC Teachers’ Federation recently requested of the Ministry of Education through FOI the research on which claims are made in a public brochure about the Foundation Skills Assessment (FSA). The response from the Ministry was that it would cost at least $8,000 to document the research. [1]

If policies are made on the basis of research, any legitimate research protocol would require that it be documented with at least a bibliography. That type of information should be available on request without even going to FOI. If the policies are not based on research but some other basis, that should be the response, not retroactively doing the research at the cost of the group requesting the information.

All of this is to say that the FOI process should be revised to make it easier to use and to make information more transparent without having to file a formal request. Unfortunately, instead of improving the system, the legislation adds another impediment to its use—charging a fee for each request.

Charging a fee has only one possible purpose—to reduce the number of requests. The cost of collecting the fee is likely to be at least as much as the fee provides, so it won’t help cover government expenses. This will have the impact of making government less transparent. This applies to the provincial government, but also to School Boards and other public bodies that are covered by the legislation.

Individuals will be less likely to file a request if they have to pay a fee, especially, like most of us, they are not experts at formulating a request in a way that will get the information they are looking for and might have to file multiple requests to get the information necessary.

The Privacy Commissioner has raised the alarm that BC is moving backward in Freedom of Information, rather than moving to improve legislation that was dated and needed updating to improve, not reduce, the public right to know. Everyone concerned about this backward move should let the government know the legislation is going in the wrong direction.

 

[1] Communication received by the British Columbia Teachers Federation on April 8, 2021, in regard to Request for Documents EDU-2021-10662.

Larry Kuehn is a member of the IPE/BC Board of Directors and chair of the Research and Programs Committee.  He is a research associate for the CCPA and retired BCTF Director of Research and Technology. He has written extensively on education matters including funding,  globalization, technology and privacy.

 

 

IPE/BC Submission to Budget Consultations 2022

IPE/BC has submitted its recommendations for the 2022 provincial budget to the Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services.  In doing so, we focused on the urgent need to place a priority on funding initiatives to support the most vulnerable learners, specifically recommending that the budget include additional funding for:

  • the inclusion of students with special needs.
  • access to adequate, nutritious food.
  • better provisions for health and safety, and
  • equitable access to technology.

You can read the complete submission here

 

 

COVID-19 Crisis Impacting Boards of Education Budgets

The practice of recruiting fee-paying international students to BC’s K-12 public education system was promoted by the previous Liberal  government and carries on today, deepening inequities between districts and creating a reliance on unstable revenue to cover gaps in funding.  The COVID-19 crisis has resulted in this revenue collapsing and the impact province-wide and on individual school districts is signficant. Find out the details in the latest IPE/BC research paper. 

Claims about education costs mislead by ignoring social and educational changes

Perspectives is an opportunity for Fellows and others to share their ideas in short, accessible essays. IPE/BC Fellows hold a range of views and interests relative to public education.

Claims about education costs mislead by ignoring social and educational changes

by Larry Kuehn

A claim about the history of funding of public education by UBC professor Jason Ellis is seriously misleading by omitting the context of changes that have taken place in education over the past fifty years. He has published an article in which he claims there has been an increase in spending on BC public education between 1970 and 2020 that he calculates as 250%. This increase is described as “astounding” according to Ellis, as quoted in a UBC press release, although he doesn’t use that phrase in his academic article.

Unfortunately, the article is an overly simplistic comparison of gross expenditures inflation adjusted with the number of students without looking at the changing expectations of education over five decades, the way the public schools have adjusted to meet those, and the very real costs of those changes. Ellis ignores the complexity when he says, “After all, if we are talking about how much we spend on K-12 schools, it surely matters how far those dollars stretch. That is mainly a question of how many students public schools need to educate at any given point in time.” (Ellis, p. 104) In fact, costs are a factor of not just how many students you have, but also the changing and diverse nature of student needs and what you offer them in the way of service and conditions.

The study chooses an arbitrary date as the baseline, without identifying the context of the system at that time and the rationale for improvements in conditions and thus expenditures since then. The language of the article reflects a bias toward “cost control” and “fiscal discipline” and an opposition to the collective bargaining rights of teachers. The rationale for the article in the end seems to be a challenge to those who see the limitations on education expenditure as based on neoliberal ideology when the facts actually support claims of those who see neoliberal policies as having a negative impact on educational expenditures.

The educational conditions in the baseline of 1970

The choice of a baseline can have a significant effect—if one chooses a low point, then the increases seem greater–and 1970 was a low point for several reasons.

The number of students grew rapidly in the 1960s, but the system did not keep up with that growth. The W.A.C. Bennett Social Credit government had a priority on building dams for hydro and other infrastructure development rather than schools and in the late 1960s had introduced policies, including a school referendum system, to limit school district expenditures.

Double shifts were common, where two schools were run within one building, an early shift until mid-day and another in the afternoon until evening. Many schools had to be built at this time, but Ellis acknowledges that the amount in his 1970 baseline does not include capital costs of building schools, but those cost are included for the period after 1974.

Class sizes were large as well.  B.C. had the largest classes in Canada in 1970, except for Newfoundland. The BC Teachers’ Federation ran a campaign at the time to limit class sizes to 40, an indication of the conditions, a situation that not only teachers but also parents would not find acceptable now. There were significant reductions in pupil-teacher ratios and class sizes in the 1970s, catching up with the limitations that existed in 1970. None of these improvements in the 1970s were the result of teachers’ collective bargaining since the legal framework at the time only allowed for negotiation of salaries and benefits.

The school system in 1970 was also much more elitist and exclusionary. While now we are not satisfied if fewer than 90% of students   complete graduation, it was half that fifty years ago. Students with special needs were not included, few programs existed for students whose first language was not English, many Indigenous students were in Residential “Schools,” and many of the Indigenous students in the public system were marginalized and actively discouraged from staying after age 16. Being inclusive in addressing all these needs takes people and resources. Very few would be satisfied with the education system we offered in 1970. In fact, many would require more of our current system, not expecting that this could be achieved on 1970 funding levels.

Many teachers who retired before 1970 lived on pensions that left them in poverty. Governments in the previous fifty years had been unwilling to provide the financing for an adequate pension system, a situation that was finally addressed in the 1970s and beyond—at a necessary cost.

The teaching force in 1970 had much lower overall levels of qualifications that have been continually increasing over the decades. In 1970 many teachers at the elementary level had entered teaching with one year of university and a year of teacher education. Most of them increased their qualifications over time, often with many years of summer university courses. In contrast, now very few enter the profession with less than a degree as well as teacher education. At least a third of current teachers have a master’s degree or a diploma beyond their bachelor’s degree and teacher education. These qualifications reflect an ability to deal with a much more complex set of educational needs—and legitimately get reflected in increased costs.

Yes, costs have increased, as they have in most things. The percentage they have increased depends not just on what the costs are, but also the baseline on which you are making the comparisons. If you choose the baseline that is a low point, it will appear that the increase is greater—and after 1970 was a point when a lot of pent-up demands were increasing on the public education system in B.C.

The conservative framing of the article

Some of Ellis’s language draws from a source frequently referenced in the article, Thomas Fleming, a conservative B.C. education historian. Fleming’s ideal of education is based in what he calls the “imperial” age of education in B.C. when education policy was determined by the education officials in the ministry (then Department) of education. This handful of men (and they were always men) could determine policy for the system and carry it out through a network of inspectors. It could keep costs under control and keep the system narrowly focused on academic purposes, not the broader social demands.

Fleming acknowledged that pressure was growing in the system in the 1960s to expand the mandate and the services of the schools, even as the enrolment was growing dramatically, and women were becoming restive over their subservient role in the system. Fleming defines 1972 as the break point in the system with the election of the New Democrat government and the active role of the BCTF in the election. The ministry officials lost control and the system was open to influence by politicians, teachers through the BCTF and what he calls special interests—parents making demands for their children and social activists calling for marginalized groups to have their needs met. All these new demands on the system would require more resources.

Calling for a return to a narrower, less inclusive education system doesn’t have any credence. The public does not want the system to do less, but to do more of whatever particular concern they have. This is confirmed every time budget limitations lead to services being cut. Fleming tried to influence a call for a narrower system focus on the academic as an editor of the 1988 Royal Commission on Education Report, but was frustrated by the lack of response of the system to that recommendation. If a direct call to cut what the system does would not work, another approach is to call for reduced costs so it is not able to do as much.

Here is where Ellis picks up Fleming’s approach using the language of “rein in educational spending” (p. 102); “cost control” (p. 102, 110, 111, 117, 118); “controlling spending” (p. 102, 113, 114); “impose spending limits” (p. 118); “fiscal discipline” (p. 113). Fleming is particularly critical of the BCTF influence in public education, beginning at the point that it became active in the 1972 election, and particularly after achieving collective bargaining rights in 1988 and Ellis adopts Flemings negative perspective on teacher bargaining. Fleming’s ideal was the “old boys network” of the education department that many BCTF leaders were a part of before the change in the organization about 1970.

Although Ellis contends that “saying that spending is up considerably is not saying it should not have increased. It is not saying that spending should not rise further in the future.” (p. 118) In only focusing on how much the expenditures have grown and not addressing the purposes of the increases or the services provided, and calling the increases “astounding”, Ellis plays into those who would use cost control to narrow educational offerings and who will use the headlines from his study to support their aims.

Reference

Ellis, Jason. (2021) “A Short History of K-12 Public School Spending in British Columbia, 1970-2020.”  Canadian Journal of Educational Administration and Policy, 196, 102-123.

Larry Kuehn is a member of the IPE/BC Board of Directors and chair of the Research and Programs Committee.  He is a research associate for the CCPA and retired BCTF Director of Research and Technology. He has written extensively on education matters including funding,  globalization, technology and privacy.

 

 

 

Statement on the discovery of 215 children buried on the site of the former Kamloops Residential School

The Institute for Public Education BC stands in solidarity with the k’emlúps te Secwe̓pemc First Nation and the many families and communities dealing with the horrific confirmation that 215 children were buried on the grounds of what was known as the Kamloops Residential School.

We know that these children and thousands and thousands more over generations were stolen from their parents, imprisoned, and abused in institutions of church and state.

We understand that Indigenous people here and across the country are dealing with the anguish and trauma of this discovery and the pain of their own experiences.

We honor the generations of survivors and the children and youth who never returned.

We recommit to a vision of public education in which each and every Indigenous child is affirmed, supported, encouraged and valued.

We take to heart the TRC Calls to Action and will strive to ensure our work answers these calls. We call on all Canadians to demand that these calls to action are fully realized.

Accountability for BC Schools: A Charter Compact for British Columbians

Perspectives is an opportunity for Fellows and others to share their ideas in short, accessible essays. IPE/BC Fellows hold a range of views and interests relative to public education.

Accountability for BC Schools: A Charter Compact for British Columbians

by Dr. Dan Laitsch

Accountable to whom and for what? 

In some form this question has been asked of our institutions since at least the early 1700s. In the context of today’s public schools, the question is of particular importance.

Public schools are faced with a wide array of accountability demands. For example, many educators feel a responsibility to the fields in which they teach—that is, they are accountable to the subject-matter they teach for upholding particular curricular standards. Teachers may also feel accountable to students for their learning; to parents for the well-being of their children; to their colleagues for the performance of the school.

Teachers may be asked by colleges and universities to be accountable for preparing students for post-secondary learning; by employers for preparing a skilled work force; and by judicial authorities for preparing law-abiding citizens. In the current context (of pandemic), educators have been asked to take on accountability for the physical and mental health of students as well. In short, schools have many constituencies they serve and for many diverse reasons, but most of these groups have very little agency to inform educator practices. Instead, government has largely taken on that authority.

Historically schools were funded and governed by locally elected school boards. In many ways this made accountability much simpler as educator accountability was quite local and close to stakeholders. As Canada grew, so too did the number of school boards and the complexity of the system. When the Constitution Act was enacted in 1867, education came to rest at the provincial, rather than local (or Federal), level. Since that time, local schools boards in BC have been increasingly regulated and consolidated by the Province (going from around 650 school districts in 1945 to 57 today) and now have only limited autonomy under the provincial government (focusing primarily on budget management and local application of provincial policies).

Over this period, we’ve also seen teacher training moving to universities and the beginning of professionalization, which brought with it its own accountability concerns. In some cases, tensions arose between school boards and teachers, ultimately leading to the formal unionization of teachers (and even greater centralization of provincial control). Today’s conversations frequently emphasize accountability to these centralized sources—government and teacher certification systems, and teachers’ professional unions. 

The end result of the centralization and professionalization of education has been a distancing of public education from the community it serves. Indeed, when you look at the public opinion data on schools, you find that the public is generally quite supportive of their local schools and the schools their children attend, but that support diminishes the further away from the community you get (i.e., less favourable ratings of other school districts, schools at the state/provincial level, or schools nationally).

This separation of schools and communities is a problem. The provincial government has worked to address the problem in part through the establishment of Parent Advisory Committees and regular parent satisfaction surveys. Here too, however, power sharing between the Province and parents remains largely symbolic, and has in many ways been used to further constrain educator authority. Across all aspects of governance, in BC the Provincial government has centralized almost all authority regarding the public education system.

This centralization has left very little ability for stakeholder groups (teachers, parents, students, or the broader public) to hold the government to account for the way it manages the system. Teachers have some ability to hold government to account through the collective bargaining process—but as we saw in the early 2000s that process can be corrupted (when the Liberals illegally stripped teachers of their collective rights), and costly to enforce (as teachers were forced into a decade long series of court battles). The ability of British Columbians (as the “public” in public education) to inform the government about the outcomes they want from their education system is even more limited.

Returning to our original question, then, accountable to who and for what, in education Government is weakly accountable to teachers, and even less accountable to the public. Accountable “for what” is largely left undefined. Many governments, BC included, have fallen back on very narrow curricular goals (literacy and numeracy) supplemented by occasional hot button issues (such as graduation rates), generally measured by simplistic large-scale tests and surveys. 

In an effort to better define the “for what”, and strengthen the role of the public in the accountability conversation, in 2003 the BCTF decided to ask British Columbians directly about what they wanted from their public school system. A panel of five British Columbians launched a lengthy public consultation process that resulted in the Charter for Public Education. While the Charter process was initiated by teachers through their provincial union the BCTF, it was independently organized and governed.

For five months the panel traveled the province to gather statements from BC residents (students, parents, educators, business people, politicians, and anyone expressing an interest in education in BC). In 42 communities across BC, in large and small cities, rural and urban settings, and throughout the province by e-mail, the panel solicited testimony from British Columbians. The process was focused on aspirational outcomes for BC students and so focused around four over-arching questions:

“What is an educated person?” 

“Which of the characteristics [of an educated person] are developed through the public schools?”

“What is an educated community?” 

“What are the principles of public education?” 

A total of 608 British Columbians responded and the data analyzed included not just presentations and submissions, but the conversations around them. The material was synthesized and analyzed by the panelists for core themes and issues, and this initial analysis and conclusions were further reviewed and commented on by a parent, trustee, teacher and university faculty member selected from hearing participants. Their feedback then informed the final document: The Charter for Public Education

The Charter was organized into four sections, an overarching preamble, Rights, Promises and Expectations. While the content of these sections are not the focus of this article, the Charter lays out what the public in BC expects of its education system and the responsibilities of stakeholders in ensuring the promise of education is realized. It helps identify the outcomes Government should be held accountable for, and it gives educators an aspirational vision to work toward. 

The Charter for Public Education currently rests with the Institute for Public Education/BC. We see the Charter as a charge to Government, Educators, and the public, and a lens through which we can better understand how our schools are doing, and how our government is fulfilling its Constitutional mandate to educate BC’s citizens.

In this light, we also see the Charter as a living document that can be examined and revised as our society grows and evolves. In looking at the Charter today, we have questions about the place of diverse learners and Indigenous students in the document; the place of equity, diversity, and inclusion in BC; and are asking what it means to highlight values espoused by Egerton Ryerson on education (“Education is as necessary as the light. It should be as common as water, and as free as air”)—a strong advocate of public education who also helped create the residential school system and opposed the education of women beyond elementary school.

For accountability to be realized, it must be based in constant reflection, a common understanding of who is engaged in the work, what they are trying to do, and the capacity they have to do that work well. It must be based in the current social context, but looking toward an aspirational future state. We believe the Charter offers us a strong foundation for this work, but only to the extent that it can engage the broader public in holding government to account for the system it controls. We invite you to join us in envisioning what a system based in the Charter should look like now, where we should be moving our schools in the future, and how we can get there together.

If you’re interested in contributing to our work, please contact us!

Dan Laitsch is the Chairperson of the Institute for Public Education’s Board of Directors.  He is a founding director for the Centre for Study of Educational Leadership, Associate Professor at SFU and Director of the SFU Surrey Campus Liaison, Faculty of Education.

The Charter for Public Education project: Reflections from a parent on the panel

Perspectives is an opportunity for Fellows and others to share their ideas in short, accessible essays. IPE/BC Fellows hold a range of views and interests relative to public education.

The Charter for Public Education project: Reflections from a parent on the panel

By Kathy Whittam

My experience as a panel member for the Charter for Public Education was a crash course in how public education works in BC and the many ways in which each community in this province is unique.

It now seems like our Charter journey was a lifetime ago. My stepson was in elementary school at the time. Later, as he was graduating from high school, my daughter began kindergarten. So, my partner and I got to engage with public education all over again. With my daughter now only a few years from finishing high school herself, I can say that public education has been a vastly different experience for each of them. But the big picture perspective I acquired while serving on the Charter panel certainly helped me as I navigated the school years with both.

The Charter experience was profound. I still reflect on all that I learned from the students, teachers, parents, trustees, principals, and community members who participated in the hearings. From a school library in Gibsons, to an auditorium in McBride, to a community hall in Haida Gwaii, to high school classrooms in Fort St John, and many places and spaces in between- each session was highly engaging and deeply meaningful.

Inevitably, the dialogues began with frustration about budget cuts, and the ways in which those in public education system were struggling as a result. But the discussion quickly turned to the goals of public education, the characteristics of an educated person and community, and what our public education system should be providing to learners of all ages. For me, it was always affirming to hear participants describe the role of education as being much broader than simply preparing students to be workers.

I have heard the Charter, created from these rich discussions, critiqued as “motherhood and apple pie” statements, but I struggle to see the problem with that. What could possibly be wrong with developing a positive vision of the public education system with the learners at the center, supported by a broad commitment by all to work together to help all learners reach their full potential?

How can the Charter be used for discussion and advocacy today? I believe it is still a powerful and effective tool, especially when we think about the pressing issues now facing us.  The Charter includes the promise that, as a community, we will “prepare learners for a socially responsible life in a free and democratic society, to participate in a world which each generation will shape and build.”

For a truly sustainable future, we urgently need transformative action. It’s very important that all generations be involved in shaping and building a better “normal “than we have ever had before. This is a critical time, in fact, to explore the role of public education in preparing our kids for their part in creating that future.

The promises in the Charter are coupled with the expectation that government “be responsible for fully funding all aspects of a quality education”. What is meant by “fully fund” and “quality education”? Ideally, each community should have a community public school that:

  • is lead by a principal who is welcoming, supports the staff team, and partners with the community to build connections and opportunities for students.
  • has teachers and support staff who are passionate about helping their students learn and grow.
  • has a library in which students can relax, read, and enhance their literacy skills.
  • offers music, art, play & physical education to fully develop students intellectual, social, physical, and esthetic capacities.
  • supports families who are struggling so every child is nourished and able to learn and have fun.
  • is supported by trustees who advocate for the needs of their schools; and,
  • is provided with funding to meet those needs, so that staff and parents do not have to keep spending valuable time on fundraising and worrying about what is needed next.

It was clear from the engagement in the hearings that talking about what quality education means to us is time very well spent. This was true then and is still the case today. Equally so, the funding to give every student the support they need is money very well invested. Further, I believe that no single top-down approach can meet the needs of every district or community. Instead, it’s time for us to define the quality and support we’re looking for from the bottom up. Just imagine the potential in community members working together on behalf of the public schools in their district, collaborating to build a needs-based budget, identifying priorities, and defining the ways in which public education is key to the well being of their children and youth and their community overall.

As you can see, the Charter project had a significant impact on me. I feel certain that this was also the case for the many people throughout BC who took the time to engage and share their perspectives. I believe that the powerful process and outcome, the Charter for Public Education, have a great deal of wisdom to offer us today.

Kathy Whittam was a member of panel that conducted hearings in many communities around BC and drafted the Charter for Public Education document and report.  She is a parent in Vancouver and has a deep commitment to inclusive, quality public education and progressive community engagement.