PV Vancouver Bureau
As Vancouver’s Oct. 14 byelection campaign for a vacant city council seat and nine school board positions wound down, two candidates for school trustee have raised the huge issue of taxpayer subsidies to elite private schools.
Two decades of chronic underfunding have left public schools across British Columbia without the support they need. The former Liberal government was compelled by a Supreme Court ruling to restore the classroom staffing levels which had been contained in collective bargaining agreements which they illegally tore up some 15 years ago. Most public education advocates agree that the new NDP government in BC presents a moment of opportunity to make strong public schools a priority.
But the new government is still scrambling to catch up with the necessary levels of new public investment in the school system, and Vancouver is among districts having trouble filling teaching positions, in part due to astronomical housing costs.
OneCity School Board Trustee candidates, Erica Jaaf and Carrie Bercic, have pledged to be vocal advocates for ending public funding to elite private schools and returning those funds into public schools.
Despite the urgent demand for more public funding for our public schools, Jaaf points out that across the province, “$45 million of public money was spent funding elite private schools in 2015/2016.” These elite Group 2 schools are the wealthiest tier of schools in BC, and do not include independent schools for children with special needs, or religious and Montessori schools.
“At a time when parents across Vancouver are being asked to reach into their own pockets to properly furnish their kids’ schools, it’s unacceptable that our public dollars continue to subsidize the wealthiest members of our society,” Jaaf continued.
As a long time public education advocate, Bercic pledged that “a vote for OneCity candidates is a vote for champions of strong public schools”. The failed Vancouver School Board budget of April 2016 showed a funding shortfall of between $21 and $24 million—money which cannot be spared from the already strained resources of the city’s public schools, but which could be diverted from elite private institutions.
“OneCity will work tirelessly at all levels of government ensuring decision makers know how outraged voters are that private elite schools are getting government handouts,” commented Bercic.
Jaaf and Bercic say they will work tirelessly to hold the government’s feet to the fire on ending education subsidies for the wealthy.