Funding Public Education in BC

This project explores how much funding and how funding is structured to provide a high quality public education system that meets the needs of all children, families and communities in our province.

NEW Occasional Paper #2 Education Funding Models in Canada: Patterns of Similarity and Details of Difference

Key Issues in Education Funding in BC

These are key features of educational funding that need to be addressed to provide stable, sustainable funding for high quality public schooling in our province.

We believe that public education is essential to a strong democracy. John Ralston Saul wrote, “Any weakening of universal public education can only be a weakening of democracy…” Too often confidence in our public schools is undermined — politicians and policy makers must be defenders and advocates for excellent public education, the bedrock of a democratic society.

High quality public education requires adequate funding. BC ranks ninth of the 10 provinces in per pupil funding, and funding has dropped dramatically as a percentage of GDP — about $2 billion a year since 2001. British Columbia doesn’t have to spend the most, and a good target would be to bring BC into the top half of per pupil spending in Canada in the next four years. Adequate funding would reduce class sizes, build quality permanent learning spaces, make school buildings earthquake safe, provide services to children with special needs, and hire librarians and school counselors.

We need to stop spending public dollars on private and independent schools. Parents have a right to send their kids to private schools, but tax dollars should not fund them. Funding to private schools, which has been increasing at a staggering rate, should be re-allocated to our public school system — a system that welcomes every child regardless of religion, wealth, ability or disability. Government should advocate enthusiastically for public schools and we should all work to stem the drift to privatization.

The structure of school financing in BC needs to be improved. While per pupil funding is a positive way to provide for each child’s education, the funding for education must also recognize fixed and programmatic costs. Physical plant expenses are not simply a matter of enrollment and some initiatives, such as programs for First Nations students, adult education, special education, English language learners, and LGBTQ students, require targeted funding.

Thoughtfully, adequately funded public schools are an investment in British Columbia’s future.