Premier John Horgan Premier John Horgan announces a new elementary school and three school expansions in Coquitlam, B.C. in March 2019. Image: Province of B.C./Flickr

In the classrooms at my school, students who get a $60,000 car for their 16th birthday sit next to students who walk an hour each day to and from school because bus fare is an unaffordable expense. Students who go home to their own bedrooms equipped with the latest technologies, collaborate on projects with students who don’t have a bed to call their own. And students who struggle to read a sentence in the third language they’ve had to learn grasp desperately for meaning when their fluent peers speak. 

The conceit of public schools is that our classrooms will somehow be the levelling space of these stark socio-economic differences through the provision of an equitable education.

Teachers who spend an average of $1,600 on classroom supplies each year do so in the hope that the right resources will magically bridge the chasm between what is funded and what is needed. 

Stories of families who have had to sell their homes in order to pay for learning supports for their children are heart-wrenching. Now just imagine what happens to those children whose families have no such assets, whose parents are simultaneously battling the legacies of colonialism and poverty.

Because public schools are often the only places where marginalized people can access support, insisting on classroom composition language in teachers’ collective agreement should not be seen as a luxury the government cannot afford. Especially not a government boasting about billions of dollars in surplus

It’s astounding that a government that launched a poverty reduction strategy to great fanfare continues to ignore calls for more funding for public schools, the very places where the 20 per cent of children who live in poverty in B.C. get their only meal most days. 

This NDP government has also made announcements to boost spending on mental health services even while the concessions it’s demanding from teachers would mean a decrease in the number of counsellors available for students in many schools. 

It makes no sense. 

In its latest survey of donors to its party, the NDP promises it wants to “build a better province.”

How is funding students at $1,866 below the Canadian national average going to do that? 

John Horgan’s plan to “build a better B.C” clearly does not have public school students in mind.   

Lizanne Foster is a teacher in Surrey, B.C.

Image: Province of B.C./Flickr