B.C. minister orders review into $16K education report by teen
B.C. Education Minister Peter Fassbender has ordered a review after $16,000 in public funds was given to a teenaged student for a study critics have said is useless.
Anjali Vyas was 18 in 2012 when she was awarded the first of two contracts by superintendent of achievement Rick Davis. The contracts were to study teacher education in Finland and present the findings to the Deans of Faculties of Education.
Vyas told the Vancouver Sun last year that she met Davis at a friend's wedding and they "hit it off."
Her final report, the culmination of a year's work, was released today following a freedom of information request from the Canadian Taxpayers Federation. Fourteen pages long, it includes a title page, just two interviews and no reference list. The requirements for each section had been emailed to her by ministry staff.
"It's written by a high school student and it contains nothing new about the Finnish system," said CTF spokesman Jordan Bateman.
Education professionals have also raised concerns about the funding process.
"What was Rick Davis and the B.C. Ministry of Education expecting?" University of B.C. education professor E. Wayne Ross wrote on his blog. "Did Davis really believe that funding a 10-month 'study' of teacher education conducted by a high school grad would produce insights into the professional preparation of teachers?"
Vyas defended her report in a video statement.
"It is simply misleading to say that the $16,000 all went towards funding a teenager's trip to Finland," she said, adding that she had to work “every day” to complete the work, as well as pay money out of her own pocket.
The contract was not approved by the deputy minister and money to pay Vyas was first diverted to another school district.
"I have moved your contract for work from ministry to Saanich school district for reasons I will explain when we talk," Davis wrote to Vyas in an email obtained by the CTF.
"It is really difficult in government to do things out of the box — but fun."
Bateman said Davis took an unusual path to funding the study.
"This (school official) was so frustrated with the bureaucracy that wouldn't let him give a $16,000 sole-sourced contract to a high school student, that he found another school district to funnel the money to," said Bateman.
Finland's education system is one of the most-studied in the world. In emails outlining expectations for Vyas' work, hopes were that she would deliver a student's perspective.
"This matter highlights the public's expectation that government is managing our spending of taxpayer dollars," said Fassbender said in an emailed statement.
Vyas emailed Davis that she was enjoying the trip.
"I love it here already ... it looks like a beautiful winter ski resort and U of H's campus is stunning," she wrote.
Davis diverted media requests to ministry communications staff.