Privatization… what images come to mind when you read that word? Do you get flashes of dirty rooms in hospitals? Do you think about the loss of B.C. ferry routes? Are you reminded of all those tolls on B.C. bridges these days? Do the faces of Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher come to mind?
Today’s neoliberals know that you have all these bad images of privatization in your minds. That the word strikes fear into your heart. And so they have a new term they will use when they sell the idea of privatizing B.C. public education to you.
Has such a nice ring to it, doesn’t it? The idea of having a choice? That you have control? That you have a say?
Trouble is you have to pay for that say.
Your choice is going to cost you at least $4,000 per child per year.
It would have been at least $10,000 but, denials notwithstanding, it’s still possible that sometime in the near future you’re going to be offered a $6,000 education voucher so that you can exercise your choice of where to spend it.
Except they may not call it that — an education voucher. They know that word has negative connotations now so expect to be told about “opportunity scholarships” for your child. Also expect to be told that the government only has your best interests in mind because now the “money follows the child” while you exercise your choice.
They will omit to mention where the money comes from and the impact of this “moving money.” They will omit to mention that the money will come from the public education budget and that moving money away from it will lead to further starvation of already struggling public school districts.
Expect to be told that the government is making all these changes because the public education system is broken, PISA scores notwithstanding.
Expect to be told that taxpayers cannot afford to pay for public education while at the same time taxpayers can apparently afford to pay $750 million to California to make a lawsuit against Powerex go away.
The B.C. Liberals love to exercise all the choices they have available to them for how to spend public funds. They love that they can choose not to fund B.C. students to the Canadian average of $9,000 per student per year. Since 2002 they have chosen to provide only $8,200 per student per year for the education of future citizens/taxpayers in B.C.
They have also chosen not to be guided by two Supreme Court Rulings.
They have chosen not to negotiate with teachers, not to mediate with teachers and not to accept arbitration either.
They have chosen to put the education of 500,000 students on hold while they blackmail teachers into giving up their constitutional rights in exchange for better learning conditions for students.
We can all make them.
What will citizens choose to do about a government that is unresponsive to calls to end the public education crisis that they created?
What will citizens choose to do about the commodification of a public good?
Will citizens choose to inform themselves about the corporate interest in the “education sector”?
Will citizens choose to learn the lessons that others have experienced when their public schools were privatized?
Are choices in lottery numbers going to be the only choice a child growing up in poverty will have to get a quality education?
What kind of democracy will citizens choose to defend?
Back to school sales should not include the sale of public education and the B.C. Liberal’s version of government making a choice about who gets a quality education and who does not.
This piece originally appeared on Lizanne Foster’s blog and is reprinted with permission.