Opinion Column

Listen to parents to spend money wisely 0

By Kathryn Marshall, City Hall

Premier Christy Clark and Education Minister Don McRae propose a 10-year agreement with the province’s public-school teachers. (CARMINE MARINELLI/24 HOURS FILE PHOTO)

Premier Christy Clark and Education Minister Don McRae propose a 10-year agreement with the province’s public-school teachers. (CARMINE MARINELLI/24 HOURS FILE PHOTO)

Who wins this week? Columnists Laila Yuile and Kathryn Marshall battle over the issues of the day.

This week’s topic:

Does Christy Clark’s 10-year education plan address the real issues in education?

This week, Laila laments how “(Premier Christy) Clark seems to think the only thing hampering education is labour strife with teachers.” Laila thinks differently and points to what she thinks is the real culprit — years of chronic underfunding to our education system.

Read Laila Yuile's column.

I’d say both Laila and Clark have it wrong.

Let’s look at some facts. In 2011-12, there were 546,219 students in public schools in B.C. In 2002, there were 600,249 students in the public system. The highest number of students enrolled in the B.C. public system was in 1997 with 615,980 kids.

Last year there were more than 50,000 fewer students enrolled in public schools than in 2002. Based on these figures, most people would probably assume that education funding is lower today than it was in 2002. That would make sense, since there are fewer students.

Wrong. The Ministry of Education operating budget in 2002-03 was $4.86 billion. This year, it’s $5.31 billion. So nearly half-a-billion dollars more with 50,000 less students should produce amazing results. But if that were the case, the number of students in independent schools would not keep increasing.

So the reality is that while enrolment in our public schools has gone down, education funding has actually gone up. Yet the problems facing our public education system continue to get worse.

While it is often the knee-jerk reaction, especially in an election year, to throw more money at a problem, it is not the same thing as fixing it. There are clearly some serious problems in the system that need to be fixed in order for real change to occur.

Let’s be clear, when unions and governments talk about more money for education, what that really often means is money for teachers. Paying teachers more is not the way to fix the system. Real reform means thinking about what is taught, how it is taught, and giving parents a greater say in the education system.

Blaming labour disputes for the issues with the education system is as shortsighted and as political as saying that paying teachers more will fix the problems.

If fewer parents are enrolling their children in the public system, the government and teachers’ union should be asking why. They should be listening to parents, and be taking a long, hard look in the mirror.

Kathryn Marshall is a columnist, blogger and political commentator. Read her blog at kathrynmarshall.ca.

 

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Who wins this week's duel on Clark's education plan?

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