Minister Mike Bernier in Colwood, B.C, 2016

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Imagine you’re back in high school and there’s a bully who steals your lunch every day. Then one day after stealing your lunch that same bully comes to you mid-way through the day and hands you back half a sandwich, and he makes a big spectacle of his actions so that everyone sees what a nice guy he is for giving you half a sandwich.
He hopes that no one has noticed him stealing your lunch this morning-and every morning prior- he wants to appear as the hero, a kind soul who is just trying to help someone in need.
This is exactly how I see the recent news that the B.C. government is giving $25 million back to school boards.

For the past 14 years the B.C. Liberals have been cutting funding and supports for public schools. This year alone the government asked school board to find $25 million in “administrative cuts.” Last year it was $29 million. On top of these yearly cuts boards also have to cover rising operational costs such as hydro and MSP, salary increases negotiated by the government and the government-implemented  technology upgrades of around $24 million this year alone, none of which is covered by additional government funding.

So this one-time funding announcement is not what I consider to be an addition to funding but rather a reduction in this year cuts.

The Minister of Education said boards are free to use this money however they see fit — using one example of being able to create new teaching positions. But since this is a one-time funding increase, how can any board in good conscious create new positions when the funding to keep them going won’t be there next year?

The same goes for school closures. How can any board use this money to prevent school closures when they know next year they will be right back in the same position?

My district will be getting $593,000 (some larger districts are getting over a million and 12 districts are getting under $100,000.) That money can’t prevent the two school closures this year (bringing the total to 14 in my district since 2002) considering we closed them to balance a deficit that ran over $2 million. 

The Vancouver School Board will still face a deficit of over $20 million and the amount given to Surrey won’t do much to change the overcrowding issues or fact that 7,000 kids in their district attend school in portables. The $110,000 they are getting in the district responsible for Osoyoos will most likely not change the decision to close their only high school.

This announcement of the $25 million also comes at what many would consider to be an inopportune time as most boards have already completed their consultation and made the necessary decisions to deal with this year’s cuts. School closures have already been decided, pink slips have already been handed out.

So why, you ask, would the government demand $25 million in cuts this year and then swoop in at the final hour to declare it was “adding” $25 million to the public education budget?

Well, much like my example at the beginning, they want to appear as heroes to the public. After all, there is a provincial election right around the corner and they know that public education will be a key election issue. So they want to create feel-good stories to give the appearance that they actually care or are committed to public education.

This $25 million doesn’t even began to address the damage done over the past 14 years, but the government is just hoping that Joe Public only sees them as the hero and will somehow forget that they are actually responsible for the mess they are now pretending to fix.

But it might be too little too late for Clark and the B.C. Liberals as the majority of parents in this province are no longer blind to the deplorable condition of the public education system in this province. After 14 years, the funding cuts can no longer be hidden or ignored and most of us are smart enough to realize a one-time reduction in cuts won’t undo the damage.

Regardless of any new feel-good announcements over the next few months, a vote for the B.C. Liberals in the next election is a vote for four more years of school closures, overcrowded classrooms and devastating funding cuts.

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Image: Flickr/bcgovphotos

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Sarah Miller

Sarah Miller was born and raised on Vancouver Island. While enjoying the island life Sarah developed an early passion for writing, photography and art. In recent years she has become a strong advocate...