AS BC prepares to release its 2021–22 provincial budget on Tuesday, teachers and parents are calling on the government to ensure public school funding is sufficient to maintain the provision of important specialized programs and services, as well as ongoing enhanced cleaning and safety measures.
They say that faced with massive budget deficits and a legal obligation to produce balanced budgets, school districts throughout BC are contemplating cuts to specialized programs and services, many of which serve students who have been most impacted by the pandemic.
“For the past year, government has been consistently saying how integral schools are for students’ mental health and well-being, we need to see the funding reflect that. Public schools are integral to our post-pandemic recovery, so why districts are now being faced with the difficult decisions to slash programs and services that have helped keep students in school, and coping as best they can throughout the pandemic is beyond me,” said Teri Mooring, BCTF President.
School districts are dependent upon provincial funding keeping up with the increasing costs of maintaining critical programs and services in public schools. Throughout the pandemic, students have been increasingly reliant on already stretched and inadequately funded school-based counselling supports, music programs, additional educational supports, and other programs and services that are now at risk of being reduced or eliminated altogether due to anticipated budget constraints, say teachers and parents.
“The outcry over potential cuts to a school district’s music programs alerted us that education assistants and specialist teachers supporting students with disabilities, complex learners, and other vulnerable students are also on the chopping block,” said Tracy Humphreys, Chair of the BCEdAccess Society. “Further digging revealed just four large districts have apparent budget shortfalls totaling over 70 million dollars, with similar plans to eliminate essential programming for these learners. Government commitments to antiracism, anti-ableism, Indigenous ways of knowing, Black history in the curriculum, mental health, child care, and more require real investment.”
“We fully recognize that the province is faced with a monumental challenge in developing this year’s budget, with countless competing needs and interests. That said, public education is not the place to make cuts. The BC NDP says that economic recovery shouldn’t leave anyone behind; yet, the budget deficits districts are being forced to balance will have massive consequences for teachers, students, and their families throughout the province,” said Mooring.
The COVID-19 pandemic has upended life across the province for students, teachers and everyone connected to public schools. The crisis has also exposed the fragilities of the economy in meeting the basic needs of all and highlighted the importance of the public sector, of community, and of care work. Schools are key public spaces of community and care. They must be protected and made more resilient both during and coming out of this public health crisis, say teachers and parents.
“I am alarmed to see these proposed cuts. We know students are already being excluded from school. BCEdAccess families often feel the ping-pong effect of being pushed between school districts and the province when it comes to funding equitable access to education,” said Humphreys. “As a parent of three children with disabilities who are 27, 18 and 15, I have long watched the erosion of education funding in our province and I’m disappointed we are still fighting this fight. Without adequate and even increased funding, exclusions will worsen. Austerity does not serve equity.”
The BC Teachers’ Federation has detailed out issues and recommendations for the Government of British Columbia in Healthy, resilient schools: Cornerstones of community and COVID-19 recovery, available online at: https://www.bctf.ca/uploadedFiles/Public/Publications/Briefs/EducationFundingBrief2021.pdf
The BCEdAccess Society is an organization of families of children and youth with disabilities and complex learners all over the province of British Columbia. We champion and support children and youth who have disabilities and who are complex learners to reach their full potential in BC education and in all aspects of their lives. Learn more at bcedaccess.com