Opinion Column

BC Liberals favour private schools

By Bill Tieleman, News, Views, and Attitude – 24 hours

The government has saved millions of dollars with the school strike. (REUTERS)

The government has saved millions of dollars with the school strike. (REUTERS)

Privatization does not mean you take a public institution and give it to some nice person. It means you take a public institution and give it to an unaccountable tyranny. — Noam Chomsky, American philosopher

The BC Liberal government can’t fail when it comes to further privatizing public education.

That conclusion is clear as B.C. teachers face their summer of discontent on picket lines without strike pay, mediation, negotiations or any movement on class size and composition.

But for the government, it’s the summer of privatization love.

Premier Christy Clark is thrilled that longtime foe the B.C. Teachers’ Federation is staggering on the ropes in a 10-round boxing slugfest it can’t win.

The government has already saved up to about $200 million from the strike.

That money can be spent on anything from promoting liquefied natural gas internationally to self-promoting advertising.

Anything, that is, but education – unless you mean private schools.

They will actually be in line for even more government financial support because come September, some parents frustrated by frequent BCTF job action will likely register their children in expensive, but non-unionized alternatives.

And those “independent” schools already get 35% to 50% of their operating funds from government – nearly $300 million a year to teach 12% of B.C. students.

The BCTF calculates funding jumped 45.6% for private schools since 2005, while public school funding rose only 16.9%.

What’s the big selling point for private schools, besides no labour disputes?

Ironically, it’s smaller class sizes and simpler class composition – the two big issues BCTF members are on picket lines to improve, beyond their wages.

Public schools have to take all students and deal with multiple challenges, from special needs kids to English-as-a-second-language students to dwindling resources — all while managing large classes.

Private schools avoid all those problems by picking and choosing who can attend, then charging tuition.

And with yearly fees at exclusive schools like St. George’s running at $18,995 for Grades 1 to 7 and $21,355 for Grades 8 to 12, they can easily outspend public schools to attract students.

Make public education less attractive, hurt your union opponents, promote and fund private schools and save money the whole time – that’s a perfect score for the premier.

Bill Tieleman is a former NDP strategist. Read more at http://billtieleman.blogspot.com/. Email: weststar@telus.net. Twitter: @BillTieleman


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