News

IPE/BC Submission for BC’S 2021 Budget Consultation

IPE/BC has submitted its recommendations to BC’s Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services for the upcoming year’s budget. Our submission reflects IPE/BC’s basic values and focuses on the following:

  1. Recognizing that public education is in the public interest and a critical element of our democratic society.
  2. Focusing funding initiatives to support the most vulnerable students.
  3. Avoiding a return to austerity to be able to recover from the damage of previous austerity measures.
  4. Defunding private/independent schools.
  5. Planning to incorporate remedies for the climate crisis in all areas of public education.

You can read the submission here.

We welcome feedback in our efforts to support public education in BC.

NEW PUBLICATION

IPE/BC is pleased to announce a new publication based on our Structure of Education Funding research project. This descriptive study focuses on how public education is funded in each of the provinces: Education Models in Canada: Patterns of Similarity and Details of Difference.

The technical report begins with an analysis of general funding patterns and the elements that drive them. Equity is a central intention build into Canadian funding models, although how best to achieve this is the subject of contestation. Funding decisions have become increasingly centralized in provincial governments, resulting in a decline in the autonomy of school boards, with boards in some provinces being eliminated altogether. Property taxes are decreasing sources of funding with provincial revenue from other taxation making up a greater proportion. The report depicts how much funding is provided and how funding is distributed in each province, but does not evaluate the (in)adequacy of funding.

We found most provinces fund education on a per-student basis, and only the provinces with the smallest number of student have cost-based education funding. Funding for the inclusion of students with special needs is a source of particular contention in many provinces and currently two competing models exist: a model based on the identification of specific and individual student needs and one based on a statistical model estimating the likely prevalence of special needs within school districts. Both models are currently used, and discussions of their appropriateness are ongoing.

Half of the provinces directly fund private schools and three fund Catholic schools. Other forms of privatization within the public school system are increasingly common. Every province gives school boards and schools the right to fundraise using techniques such as international student tuition fees, revenue generating academies, and school building fundraising by parents and students.

IPE/BC appreciates any feedback on this technical report.

 

 

NEWS RELEASE: Most British Columbians Do Not Support Public Funding for Private Schools

Vancouver, BC – The idea of public funding and subsidies for private schools in British Columbia is being met with disapproval from residents across the province. A new poll finds that four-in-five British Columbians (78%) oppose providing taxpayer funds for elite or preparatory private schools in the province, with a total of 60% being strongly opposed to the idea.

The study was conducted by Insights West on behalf of the Institute for Public Education/British Columbia and First Call: BC Child and Youth Advocacy Coalition, with support from the Lochmaddy Foundation.

Government funding for religious or faith-based schools is opposed by 69% of British Columbians with 51% feeling strongly against the idea. And two-thirds (66%) oppose public funding for secular private schools with 44% in strong opposition. These sentiments are consistent across generations, genders and regions.

All private schools in the province receive public funding and most also charge additional tuition fees. Private schools that spend more per student than public schools receive 35% of the public school district per pupil cost, and those that spend the same or less per student as public schools receive 50% of the per pupil cost. In total, this outlay represents hundreds of millions of dollars annually from the provincial budget.

While provincial regulation and administration of private schools in British Columbia falls under the Independent Schools Act, private school employers in British Columbia are exempt from meeting the standards of the British Columbia Human Rights Code. That fact is mostly unknown by the BC public. According to the survey findings, only a very small percentage (10%) of respondents are aware that private schools in BC are exempt from the Code. Once made aware of this, a majority of respondents (81%) do not believe private schools should be allowed this exemption.

Likewise, nearly three-quarters (73%) of respondents from BC do not feel that private schools should be exempt from paying provincial property taxes, with 56% feeling strongly so. BCers are more accepting of granting tax benefits and credits for private donations to private schools. The survey reveals that 43% agree that donations to private schools should entitle the donor to an income tax credit while slightly less (38%) disagree, though 26% of respondents do feel strongly in that disagreement.

“Given the overwhelming opposition to public subsidies for elite private schools and the importance of adequately funding public education, the BC Ministry of Education should discontinue these subsidies immediately,” says Sandra Mathison, Executive Director of the Institute for Public Education BC. “This should be followed by a plan to phase out subsidies to faith-based schools as well.”

“Findings from this survey supports First Call’s position that adequate funding for public schools should be government’s priority,” commented Adrienne Montani, First Call’s Provincial Coordinator. “We need to ensure that all students, regardless of family income, can have their learning needs met at their local, public school.”

About the Survey:

Results are based on an online study conducted from May 13-20, 2019 among a representative sample of 817 British Columbians. The data has been statistically weighted according to Canadian census figures for age, gender and region. The margin of error—which measures sample variability—is +/- 3.4 percentage points, 19 times out of 20. Discrepancies between totals are due to rounding.

Click HERE to view the detailed data tabulations.

 

For further information, please contact:
Sandra Mathison, Executive Director
Institute for Public Education BC
publiceducationbc@gmail.com
604.879.7386

 

About Insights West:

Insights West is a progressive, Western-based, full-service marketing research company. It exists to serve the market with insights-driven research solutions and interpretive analysis through leading-edge tools, normative databases, and senior-level expertise across a broad range of public and private sector organizations. Insights West is based in Vancouver and Calgary.

About the Institute for Public Education BC:

The Institute for Public Education BC is an independent nonpartisan society providing high quality information and leadership to build a strong public education system for British Columbia’s children, families, and communities. IPE/BC offers analysis of current educational issues, supports public education, and shares current research findings to enrich dialogue on educational issues in British Columbia.

About First Call:

 First Call: BC Child and Youth Advocacy Coalition is a non-partisan coalition of 105 provincial and regional organizations who have united their voices to put children and youth first in BC through public education, community mobilization, and public policy advocacy.

 

Public Subsidies to Private Schools in BC: 2019

IPE/BC monitors private school funding in BC each year and reports the findings to the public.

British Columbians have subsidized private schools with more than $2.5 billion over the last 7 years.

IPE/BC agrees with most British Columbians who believe this public funding to private schools needs to end.

This year’s taxpayer funded subsidy is projected to be $436 million.  That’s an increase of 39% since 2013-2014.

When adjusted for inflation, the increase in funding to private schools since 2000-2001 is 122.8% while for public schools the increase over those 19 years is only 15.9%.

With a public system still reeling from more than 15 years of cuts by the previous government, and students with special needs bearing the brunt of the underfunding, there is no excuse for funnelling billions of dollars to private schools. That money should be allocated to the public school system where it can help every child achieve their fullest potential.

Sources:

The data for 2013/14 to 2017/18: BC Ministry of Education, Independent Schools Enrolment and Funding Data, available at https://www2.gov.bc.ca/assets/gov/education/administration/kindergarten-to-grade-12/independent-schools/enrollment_funding_summary.pdf

The data for 2018/19 (fiscal year): BC Ministry of Education, Budget 2018 Overview (February 2018)

The data for 2019/20 (fiscal year): BC Ministry of Education, Budget 2019 Overview (February 2019)

 

 

 

Public School Programs of Choice: Private School in the Public System?

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.

Public School Programs of Choice: Private school in the public system?

by Tara Ehrcke

The 21st century has, so far, seen the great up-ending of one of the most fundamental tenets of public education—that all children, regardless of background or socio-economic status, should be able to reach the same educational end goal. This concept of equality of outcome was intricately tied to the notion that society provided, or should provide, for social mobility. One could improve one’s station in life because public institutions, such as public education, were grounded in what we would now more commonly refer to as equity. The system, rather than doling out resources equally to all children, would rather apportion them so as to ensure that those starting with a disadvantage had the opportunity to catch up.

The neoliberal turn of the late twentieth and early twenty-first century has instead brought us back to the more basic and enduring features of capitalism. Institutions, rather than mitigating inequalities, are instead exacerbating them. Within schooling, this obviously takes shape clearly in the private versus public provision of schooling. But, even within the public school system, a great many features serve to further stratify children according to race, class and gender. We see aspects of private schools directly within public schools.

One such feature is school choice. “Choice” takes place in a variety of ways: the open catchment areas; allowing and increasing public funding of private schools; allowing school fees; and promoting niche schools and academies. With only limited opposition (from parents, teachers and school trustees) “choice” policies have changed the nature of BC’s public school system. The impact of these changes is that we are moving from a more comprehensive, equitable, neighbourhood and community oriented, publicly administered school system, towards a semi­private, stratified and segregated system in which precious limited resources are increasingly allocated to a privileged minority.

Parents can be easily swayed by these calls: How could school choice be a bad thing? How is wanting the best for my child making things worse for public education?

Teachers, administrators and school board trustees can similarly be entranced by school choice initiatives. They see opportunities to offer new and alternative programs that otherwise wouldn’t be supported. Or more likely, they see their existing programs cut and school choice policies the only method to try and maintain them. With fee structures, they see the chance to have properly funded programs. With dwindling support and resources from the basic Ministry budgets, these policies can appear to be the only way to keep such programs running.

But sometimes what seems or even is best for one child or one group of children is not best for all children. And what appears to be saving an individual program is in fact fundamentally changing the nature of the school system.

School choice exists in British Columbia in a variety of forms. All catchment boundaries are now open, or semi-open, allowing parents to register in a school outside their catchment area. French immersion, perhaps the longest running, largest, and most entrenched program of choice, is now commonly known as “the private system within public schools.” Immersion programs are notoriously unfriendly towards struggling learners. Children with challenges typically cannot receive special education services in French, and are often advised to switch back into the English stream.

Yet another form of school choice is the Academy, or niche program. There are sports academies, and arts academies, but also academic academies such as International Baccalaureate programs, honours programs, and challenge programs. These specialty programs often have competitive enrolment processes, and often require the payment of school fees (typically $2000 – $5000, but as much as $17,000/year). Thus, they are available only to a small subset of students.

Data from the Vancouver School Board verifies the low number of students with an IEP, who are English Language Learners, or who are Aboriginal within the Vancouver Board school choice programs.

Source: VSB, Freedom of Information request number 2014­25

Research on school choice programs generally finds that access to choices varies in relation to socioeconomic status, and that choice tends to have the effect of stratifying along socioeconomic lines. Parents who have more social capital will exercise their rights to choose. They are the ones able to pay additional fees, drive across town, or wait in overnight line­ups. Often, they are simply the parents who know about the choices and the ways to access them.

When these parents access special schools and programs, they are choosing a demographic that matches their own, and thereby reducing the diversity of the schools and programs they have left.

Even the rather conservative Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) acknowledges what the research shows:

“School choice advocates often argue that the introduction of market mechanisms in education allows equal access to high quality schooling for all. Expanding school choice opportunities, it is said, would allow all students – including disadvantaged ones and the ones attending low performing schools – to opt for higher quality schools, as the introduction of choice in education can foster efficiency, spur innovation and raise quality overall. However, evidence does not support these perceptions, as choice and associated market mechanisms can enhance segregation.
…
Although parents may be concerned about equity and integration and may support their neighbourhood school, they seek at the same time the “best” education for their children… Parents with a better­ off background tend to avoid schools with a significant number of disadvantaged students and research suggests that parents prefer schools with populations ethnically similar to their own family… All these elements contribute to socio­economic segregation between schools.”

A genuinely public school system includes equal opportunity for all members of the public. Schooling must be common, collective and universal; equity must be a guiding principle.

To restore equity in public schools, we should focus on these goals:

  1. Advocate for fully funded comprehensive neighbourhood schools with a full range of programming at every school, available to every child
  2. Eliminate school choice policies including open catchments, niche schools/programs, program fees, and streaming
  3. Eliminate all private funding: subsidies to private schools, fundraising, corporate and other private donations, and school and program fees

A longer version of this article published in Our Schools, Our Selves is available here.

Tara Ehrcke is a high school math teacher in Victoria and Past President of the Greater Victoria Teachers’ Association.

Friday, March 1, 2019

IPE/BC held its Annual General Meeting on Friday, March 1, 2019 in Vancouver. In conjunction with the AGM, our Fellows Forum focused on media engagement and Jean Kavanagh of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives presented us with advice and tips on how to engage successfully with print and broadcast media.

Monopoly Technology Platforms are Colonizing Education

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.

Monopoly Technology Platforms are Colonizing Education

By Larry Kuehn

The exposés of abuse by social media corporations like Google and Facebook have finally brought attention to the dangers of monopolies over our communications. The way these monopolies have been colonizing public education has, however, gone almost unnoticed. This is rampant privatization sneaking in as essential to “21st Century learning.”

The top five global capital corporations are technology platforms—Apple, Google, Microsoft, Amazon and Facebook. Platforms are a host for a variety of services and uses. All of the big five platform corporations have become too large in a short period of time to have any significant competition outside of this group. They compete against one another, adding services to secure their monopoly by offering users everything they do online.

If a new service is developed that seems to be gaining users, or that competes with an element of their platform, it is purchased and integrated into the platform—avoiding new competitors. Alternatively, they use their massive resources to develop a comparable app and push the potential competitor aside.

Snicek, in Platform Capitalism, points out that the development of these monopolies “introduces new tendencies within capitalism that pose significant challenges to a post-capitalist future.” Building public cooperative platforms becomes an impossible dream.

No surprise—these platforms have moved to colonize education. Public education represents a big chunk of potential revenue. Just as importantly, schools are where one can find most of the future potential consumers and users of the platform services.

Colonization is a process where a significant force moves into an area and dominates. It takes over not only the production and resources, but imposes—often by stealth and power—the processes and approaches and even values of the social and cultural environment. And, dominate is what the monopoly platforms are on track to do in public education.

The most successful colonizer has been Google. A recent report indicates that Google’s G-Suite for Education is being used by half the teachers and students in the U.S. Canada is fast approaching the same level of use. It includes a range of free software tools that can be used by students and teachers—word processing, presentations, spread sheets and the like. G-Suite incorporates “Classroom,” an integrated learning management system that keeps track of grades, attendance and more. And, of course, YouTube is linked to student use.

New elements are added frequently. “Google Sites” is promoted for student e-portfolios, because “every student should publish for the world.” Google acquired Workbench, integrated with Google Classroom to give “lessons connected to a variety of ‘maker’ activities focused on STEM.” It is part of Google’s plan to “help schools and educators address their universal needs around education content.”

Google, rather than democratic public institutions, therefore shapes what is on offer. Google’s position as colonizer is strengthened by the hardware increasingly used in schools—the Google Chromebook. It is less expensive than other computers because much of what it needs to operate is supplied by Google in the cloud—operating software, applications and memory. No need to build those into the computer.  According to market reports, Chromebooks make up the majority of all computers sold to schools in the U.S. and are marketed globally.

However, one must have a gmail account to use these Google tools—so if a parent wants to protect the privacy of their child and refuses a gmail account that kid is left out while the rest of the class works away on their Chromebook and other Google tools. (See here the kind of consent form parents are asked to sign, giving Google access to acquire and store student information outside of Canada.)

Google has even taken up teaching “internet safety,” with a program aimed at reaching 5 million students. Its core is a game for students in Grades three to six to teach them to avoid “schemers, hackers and other bad actors.” However, as critics point out, it doesn’t talk about privacy concerns when users’ personal information and actions are tracked online. Google conveniently ignores its role as a “bad actor.”

A Swedish study of Google’s strategy concluded that “By making an implicit demarcation between two concepts (your) ‘data’ and (collected) ‘information’ Google can disguise the presence of a business model for online marketing and, at the same time, simulate the practices and ethics of a free public service institution.”

In “The Weaponization of Education Data,” Audrey Watters points out “the risk isn’t only hacking.  It’s amassing data in the first place. It’s profiling. It’s tracking. It’s surveilling.”

Google isn’t alone in the business of colonizing education and student data—just the most successful so far. One competitor is Microsoft 365 Education, with a promise of “empowering every student on the planet to achieve more” and that it will “unlock limitless learning.”

It’s not an accident that it is “Microsoft 365” that is being pushed. It offers a cloud-based software and cloud storage for your work. It is the new business model for Microsoft: they don’t sell you software, you rent it—and you keep paying for it. And your work isn’t saved on your own computer, so you have to keep up your subscription. Like Google, they are hoping that students will keep using their tools when they finish being students.

Microsoft is imitating much of what Google offers, but by charging for the service rather than trading it for data. It offers apps, educator training and STEM lessons “to enrich science, technology, engineering and math classes.” They offer “budget friendly” Windows 10 devices with licences for Microsoft 365 Education.

The other major tech corporations have programs as well. Apple, for example, was the first into education with the Apple IIe and the “Apple Classroom of Tomorrow” way back in the 1980s. More recently it depended on the ease of use of the iPad, despite its cost, to sell classroom sets along with Pearson curriculum in an ill-fated project with Los Angeles schools.

Venture capitalists are hoping to find the magic app that will make a fortune. The potential market is indicated by expenditure of hundreds of millions each year on developing new products. The “winners” are likely to be bought up by one of the major corporations—or find their product idea taken by the monopolies.

Not enough attention is paid by education authorities or researchers to the shaping and distortion of education that is possible—even likely—by this colonization of education by technology monopolies.

Larry Kuehn is an IPE/BC Fellow, IPE/BC director and Director of Research & Technology for the British Columbia Teachers’ Federation. 

THINK TANK: Privatization and Public Education

On December 7th, IPE/BC (with the support of Your Education Matters) held a Think Tank to discuss the wide range of issues around privatization in public education in British Columbia. IPE/BC Fellows, teachers, researchers, and community leaders came together to consider what issues to address and how strategically to do so. Joel French, Executive Director of Public Interest Alberta, started the conversation with a keynote address, Anti-private and Pro-public Advocacy in K-12 education: Lessons from Alberta.

IPE/BC will be considering the many ideas generating in moving forward with its strategic goal of supporting the public in public education.

 

IPE/BC Fellows on privatization and distributed learning

On Saturday, September 22, 2018, Larry Kuehn and Liz Blackwood will be participating in a forum, Public Education: Championing Lasting Change,  sponsored by First Call and Your Education Matters.

Their presentation…

Privatization and Distributed Learning in BC: Impacts on Educational Opportunities for Special Needs Students

With parental dissatisfaction with learning opportunities for their special needs children many are turning to private, for-profit schools that offer education primarily through distance strategies. There is a conflation of issues here including privatization and the appropriateness of distributed learning strategies that need to be more public and better understood to facilitate change.