The Institute for Public Education/ BC has called on the federal government to place an urgent priority on the implementation of a national, universal school food program in the upcoming budget. In a brief submitted to the federal pre-budget consultation, we speak to the importance of such a program in helping to address food insecurity and poverty throughout the country. Additionally, we explain the positive impact of a universal program on student learning, well-being, health and development, and the educational opportunities it would provide for all school-aged children and youth. Read the full brief submitted to the 2024 budget consultation here.
Thank you very much to the CCPA for the January 11th Policy Note on IPE/BC’s Hopes and Dreams project and for inviting readers to participate. We know there are many significant problems that need addressing in our public schools- teacher shortage, inadequate support for students with diverse learning needs, and underfunding, to name a few. At the same time, we think that it’s important to talk about our aspirations for our education system, students and learning in BC and to help inform policy through the voices of British Columbians. What are your hopes and dreams for public education in BC? Check out the links in this article to join in the conversation.
IPE/BC’s community engagement project, Hopes and Dreams for Public Education in BC, was featured on Radio CFRO, Vancouver’s Cooperative Radio, on December 16th. Bárbara Silva, IPE/BC Board member, spoke with Jane Williams on Redeye about the project and the ways that IPE/BC is reaching out to British Columbians and inviting them to share their perspectives. Thank you very much to Coop Radio for this interview and for inviting listeners to participate.
We hope you’ll take a few minutes to listen to the segment (scroll down to December 16th) and, of course, we also hope you’ll join with others in BC and participate by sending in your thoughts.
On September 30th and throughout the year, we commit to learning, reflecting, and teaching about the genocidal treatment of Indigenous Peoples in Canada, and to taking meaningful steps to reconciliation. We know that the education is key to exposing the brutal inhumane treatment of Indigenous children, families, and peoples across the country and to ensuring every child is treated with respect and given the support and encouragement they deserve. Indigenous children need to see their culture, history, and ways of knowing embraced in our public school system, and to know that they are truly welcomed, and their strengths are celebrated. It is up to all of us in the education community to ensure this is the case.
We applaud the steps taken to date in our public schools and, at the same time, know that there is much more to do. As Justice Sinclair so aptly said, “Education got us into this mess and education will get us out.”
National Truth and Reconciliation Day is an opportune time to re-read the TRC Calls to Action, and to individually and collectively make plans to ensure they are implemented. Decolonizing our work, our daily lives and our education system is a critical imperative- one which we all owe to the children and youth in our schools and communities. The message, “Every child matters” calls upon us to ensure this is truly the case for Indigenous children. Fortunately, there are many excellent resources to help us do the necessary learning and to act on our commitments. Just a few of the many available are included below. We know there are many more excellent resources for acting on reconciliation in our schools and communities and would welcome you sharing those with us.
The IPE/BC submission to the Budget 2024 Consultation process is titled, Building Capacity for BC’s Future, and is focused on the following three priorities:
- addressing the serious teacher shortage that is putting the quality of public education at risk,
- acting on the need to revise the system for capital planning and building in order to ensure a forward-looking approach, and
- meeting the need for increased funding for post-secondary education.
You can read the full submission including our recommendations and rationale here.
June 8, 2023
We know that a high quality, accessible and inclusive public education system is essential to a strong democracy. We also know that teachers’ working conditions are students’ learning conditions. A recent report shines a light on the serious issues that need to be addressed so that our valuable public education system can continue to live up to the important role it plays in our society.
As you’ll see from this report on the BCTF’s recent member survey, the pressures on teachers are becoming untenable. We can only expect that BC’s critical teacher shortage will get worse if the conditions are not improved. Increasing workload, inability to secure the support their students need, staffing shortages, and oversized classes are among the top factors having a worrying impact on the physical and mental health of teachers. Teachers considering leaving the profession within the next two years pointed to inadequate working conditions, lack of support for students with diverse needs, stress, and burnout as key reasons. They identified not being able to get the necessary support for students who need it as the key impact of the staffing shortages.
It’s well worth taking the time to read the full report. As you’ll see, the situation calls for immediate, concerted government attention.
New School Monies Mostly to Cover Current Cost Pressures
By John Malcolmson, Institute for Public Education/BC
March 1, 2023
Tuesday’s budget announces a significant increase in funding for K-12 schools. On the operating side of the ledger, there appears to be in excess of $625 million in additional money, according to the Education Ministry’s Service Plan document.
Before the champagne corks start popping, it is worthwhile to keep a few salient (and sobering) thoughts in mind.
➢ Current year funding for public schools is in the order of $6,330 million, so the above scale of increase is clearly sizeable and in the vicinity of 10 per cent.
➢ Our schools are highly labour intensive. In 2022/23, about $4,528 million was spent on wages and salaries for teachers, support staff, and administrative staff. Benefit costs that vary directly with wage spending are likely to add in another $830 million in costs, so the cost of maintaining the staff that run our schools comes to about $5,362 million. These workers are in line to receive a 6.75% increase in April, so that will absorb a full $362 million in new funding.
➢ School enrolments are slated to rise by 1.4%. If one assumes a direct scaling in system costs to meet the needs of these new students, that will take up another $89 million.
➢ Expected inflation on non-wage costs in our schools – close to a $1 billion annually – will absorb another $58 million.
➢ The newly-enhanced school food program is projected to cost an additional $59 million in 2023/24.
If you tally up the underlined amounts above, you get about $568 million already committed. That leaves just $60 odd million to deal with costs associated with new initiatives or the Classroom Enhancement Fund to hire new teachers, or the Learning Improvement Funding dedicated to building up Education Assistant time with students with special needs. Not insubstantial of course but a far cry less than what the headlines alone suggest.
The IPE/BC submission to the 2023 Budget Consultation process calls for a restoration of the percentage of BC Gross Domestic Product allocated to public education. The oft-repeated “highest funding ever” mantra is misleading, at best, as the percentage of BC GDP for K-12 public schools has declined signifantly over the last two decades. IPE/BC is recommending a return to the 2.5% that was allocated in 2002.
You can read the complete submission here.
All in all, the financial plan for BC public schooling reflects a meagre anticipated increase and one not capable of supporting much in the way of new initiatives.
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