Category Archives: Budgets & Funding

BC gov wasted $66-million over 12 years on failed aboriginal child services #bcpoli #bced #yteubc #idlenomore

Lindsay Kines, Victoria Times Colonist, November 6, 2013– The B.C. government’s failed attempt to reform the aboriginal child welfare system during the past 12 years has wasted nearly $66 million without helping a single child, the province’s child watchdog says in a new report.

Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond accuses the government and aboriginal organizations of blowing money on consultants, pointless research projects and endless meetings that go nowhere and deliver no tangible results.

“To be blunt, a significant amount of money has gone to people who provide no program or service to directly benefit children,” she writes in her 86-page report, When Talk Trumped Service.

More than half the money was spent on a failed effort to set up Regional Aboriginal Authorities, while the rest went to self-governance initiatives in the Ministry of Children and Family Development that bled money away from front-line services, the report says.

Turpel-Lafond said the “colossal failure of public policy” took place at a time when many aboriginal children have no safe place to live and no help coping with violence, abuse, mental illness and learning disabilities.

“Children and youth deserve better, and the best contrition for this rather shameful debacle would be a real effort to improve the outcomes for those children by actually knowing what they require and what works to support them — to stop directing the money into the big theoretical fixes, and instead shore up the front lines of the system, especially in those places where the paved roads end in B.C.,” the report says.

Turpel-Lafond spares no one in her report, noting that aboriginal organizations — particularly political groups — have been willing participants in the fiasco.

“Whether this is because they have been so overburdened by so many agendas . . . or if they believe that they are actually making progress, the representative is unsure,” the report says.

The report urges the Ministry of Children and Family Development to refocus its energy on delivering front-line services to children and leave discussions about a self-government to the Attorney General.

Turpel-Lafond said Children’s Minister Stephanie Cadieux has indicated that she was unaware of the problems.

Cadieux, who is slated to speak with reporters this afternoon, issued a statement in which she said the ministry agrees with Turpel-Lafond’s findings and recommendations.

“We know our focus needs to be on providing direct services to aboriginal children and families,” the statement said. “That’s why, two years ago, the newly appointed deputy minister began the process of shifting the focus of contracts from governance to service delivery.”

All aboriginal contractors have been told that future contracts will focus on direct services, Cadieux said.

She denied, however, that the money spent over the past decade was wasted. “Our efforts to build relationships with First Nations communities have established a solid foundation for government as it continues to move forward on the development of government structures.”

Read More: Victoria Times Colonist

The final “Year of Teacher Education” in BC as we know it #bced #bcpoli #bced #education #yteubc

The most recent indicator that this will be the final “Year of Teacher Education” in BC as we know it is of course the news that brought the 2012-13 school year to an end, inaugurated the summer, and launches the new term. The news rocking the education nation is the Ontario Liberal government’s statement on Modernizing Teacher Education, released on June 5, 2013:

The new Ontario government and the Ontario College of Teachers are modernizing teacher education in the province beginning September 2015. In addition to expanding the program to two years, admissions will be reduced by 50 per cent starting in 2015. This will help address an oversupply of graduates, enabling Ontario’s qualified teachers to find jobs in their chosen field. [see Minister of Education Liz Sandals’ remarks]

For all the new teachers-to-be out there, “this will help address an oversupply of graduates” and enable “qualified teachers to find jobs.” Let’s do the math here…

Depending on your politics, Modernizing Teacher Education is either welcome and overdue, or an attack on young teachers. As Andrew Langille countered on the Youth and Work blogModernizing Teacher Education amounts to a “massive policy blunder:”

The Government of Ontario cynically decided to let universities peddle the impossible dream of becoming a teacher to thousands of students. This is how we arrived at this morning’s announcement – sustained inaction combined with frankly stupid advice from senior bureaucrats in multiple ministries over a decade – with young workers taking a hit due to the rank incompetence of their elders and leaders.

The same processes have underwritten teacher education in BC for over a decade, with admission totals simply defaulted to a quota for tuition dollars and promises of a job market demand for teachers that never materializes, as more and more graduates queue up for substitute, “teacher on call” (TOC) jobs dependent on 5:30 am phone rings to put a meager amount of bread on the next morning’s table.

The same policy blunders seem to apply in the throes of a tanking economy in BC as well, with recurrent cuts to education funding, incentives to privatize or fuel competition between public and independent or private schools, measures to erode, limit, or cut salaries and wages of public sector employees, disintegration of respect for public sector employee bargaining rights, and a sustained degradation of respect for teachers as professionals and intellectuals and as members of an effective union.

The same reactions among teacher education administrators seem to apply again, but now there is an admission that the era of denial of surplus or glut of teachers in BC is over. Following the Ontario Liberals’ announcement of 5 June, SFU Dean Kris Magnusson acknowledged: “I’d be surprised if there is a specific agenda to make some changes [in BC] but I think there’s a will to explore that supply-demand equation.”

It’s acknowledgments like this and changes like those in Ontario that point to significant changes in teacher education in BC as we know it. Although at UBC, we’ve not yet heard a candid acknowledgement of policy blunders and we are still insistent that this remains the era of “Showcasing the very best of what we do in the Faculty of Education for teacher education!

Nonetheless, this is Vancouver and time for a little rain on the UBC Faculty of Education’s parade and crashing the party. It is time to acknowledge that the teacher surplus is no longer a conversation piece removed from the Teacher Education Office’s dialogue on what it means to be or become a teacher.

Cyberbullying and cybermobbing: What ought teachers do?

Heritage Minister James Moore announced $250,000 in funds this week to support the Federal government’s Youth Take Charge initiative. The new funding supports a youth-led anti-bullying project, primarily through the Canadian Red Cross’s Stand Up to Bullying and Discrimination in Canadian Communities project, building on the Red Cross’s Beyond the Hurt program. The Red Cross funds will be used to train 2,400 teens ages 13 to 17 to deliver workshops for their peers. The announcement was made at the Ottawa high school where Jamie Hubley was a student when he heart-breakingly took his life in the throes of bullying on 15 October 2011.

The new initiative and funds signal increasing concerns with bullying and cyberbullying, which is receiving due attention; mobbing, including cybermobbing, is also drawing attention. Although mobbing can refer to a group of bullies, it less obviously refers to scenarios where students, teens, etc. succumb to peer pressure to gang up on one or a few individuals. Any one of those joining into mobbing may never be suspected of bullying per se, as they are unlikely to single-handedly act against a target, but collectively all too readily assume the characteristics of the pack.

In the past year were two highly publicized suicides of young women in tormented by cyberbullying and cybermobbing through social media. The tragic story of Amanda Todd, who took her life on 10 October 2012 after posting on YouTube an emotional cry for help and description of how she suffered, generated a wave of compassion and questions: how could this have happened to a 15 year-old high school student at CABE Secondary School in Port Coquitlam, BC. Who and what are responsible? Why? Canadians relived a nightmare again when Rehteah Parsons, a 17 year-old student in Coal Harbour, NS, took her life on 7 April 2013. This young woman was a tragic victim of rape and subsequent malicious social media practices. Yet the deaths of these young women followed three suicides in 2011– young women all of which were tormented through social media practices maligning and targeting them: Emily McNamara, Jenna Bowers-Bryanton, and Courtenay Brown took their lives in March and April 2011. There is no getting over these young women, Jamie Hubley, or the many others who lost or took their lives for similar reasons.

Teachers have for years been taking stands against bullying and mobbing and need help and support, and they need insights into how to protect themselves from making a mistake in the selection of resources. For instance, on 29 May 2013, a Winnipeg teacher at École Julie Riel in St. Vital showed a popular anti-bullying movie titled Love is All You Need?, using the YouTube version. It’s a professionally produced movie with a powerful message. Writer and director Kim Rocco Shields defended the movie, noting that “it was created to open eyes of more adults and maybe teenagers, late teens, that couldn’t really grasp the idea of why kids were being bullied and why kids were taking their own lives.” Contemplating an edited version for use in schools, she reported that “some of the experts said, right then and there, we must change the ending so it’s more uplifting.”

Image from Love is All You Need?

With the explicit peer-induced and self-inflicted violence of the video, a student fainted in class and the boy’s parents understandably became quite upset. The boy’s father was straightforward: “A teacher chose something that was viewed that was not part of the official curriculum.” Superintendent Duane Brothers called the video “clearly inappropriate.”

Hopefully, in addition to the $250,000 for youth-led anti-bullying project more funds will be forthcoming forthcoming from federal and provincial governments for teacher-led initiatives.

BC Liberals candidate comments insensitive to special needs students

Dean Recksiedler, News1130, May 7, 2013– Critics are blasting a Liberal candidate in northern BC who made some controversial comments about special needs students in the school system.

In a recent all-candidates meeting, the incumbent MLA in Peace River North was asked if he thought there was a correlation between the degradation of the public school system and the increased enrolment in private schools/home schools.

Pat Pimm‘s response was:

“I think there is… We’ve certainly seen a decline in the public system. The public system since 2001, there’s been a decline of over 60,000 students. That’s a big decline. What’s driving that decline, I can’t honestly say. But I do think that there’s…… People don’t like to speak about this, so I’ll probably get in trouble for saying anything… When you’ve got special needs children in classes with other children, it does create some issues. I’ve heard that across the province, it causes some grief. How do you deal with that is a real hard question and it’s one that… is causing the teachers extra time and trouble and certainly, I think is causing some students to move into other areas in the private sector as well.”

The BC NDP and BC Teachers Federation seem to lead the charge in slamming Pimm; critics call his comments “insensitive” and “appalling.”

One comment on Twitter was even more pointed, suggesting the incumbent in Peace River-North was de facto admitting the BC Liberal government has under-funded classrooms with special needs kids in them.

Vancouver elementary teachers association endorse NDP in BC election #BCPoli

Given the BC Liberals history of underfunding public education, promoting corporate intrusion, and undermining of collective bargaining, the Vancouver Elementary School Teachers’ Association (VESTA) are  lobbying the BCTF to endorse the NDP leading up to the May 14 election.

“The change has been brought about by what we consider to be a decade… long attack on public education through government policy, strips of collective agreements, legislation,” said Gerry Kent, VESTA president.

“While (the BCTF is) not endorsing a political party, I think it’s clear that it’s time that maybe we do. Especially in light of the current budget that the Liberals propose, there doesn’t seem to be any help to remedy the difficulties that are affecting public education, which in our view have been put in place by the Liberal government.”

Listen to Media Mornings podcast of VESTA President Gerry Kent

BC schools face total budget shortfall of $130 million #bcpoli

CBC News, April 29, 2013– The B.C. School Trustees’ Association says it will call on the provincial government for more money after the election, as school boards across the province struggle with a budget shortfall of $130 million.

The trustees voted unanimously at its annual general meeting this weekend to ask whichever government is elected on May 14 to re-open the issue of school funding.

School boards are required by law to have balanced budgets, but Teresa Rezansoff, the newly-elected BCSTA president, says they are faced with wage increases and other rising costs.

“We’d like to see a commitment to sustainable, predictable funding that covers those annual cost pressures that are there,” said Rezansoff.

“There is no better investment you can make than in our future citizens and it should be an absolute top priority for any government,” she added.

The Vancouver School Board, which votes on next year’s budget on Monday night, is faced with an $8 million shortfall.

As a result, the board has decided to scrap its continuing education program and have another two-week spring break next year.

But parents say the time off means extra child care costs, adding to increasing fees and fundraising demands schools already places on families.

“It’s a direct hit to the children and to the low income families,” said parent Iraj Khabazian.

Last Week, the Coquitlam School Board took the drastic measure of cutting more than 140 jobs, after announcing a potential deficit of more than $7.5 million.

Read More: CBC News Story 1 and Story 2

Working toward tuition free post-secondary education in BC and Canada

I was interviewed for this story in The Georgia Straight, which raises the question of free post-secondary education in British Columbia and the lack of uptake on the topic in the current BC election discourse.

In my interview with The Straight, I highlighted the staggering debt load post-secondary students currently face. In Canada, student debt (not including provincial and private loans) is over $15 billion according to the Canadian Federation of Students. The high cost of post-secondary education in BC is a significant barrier to attendance by lower and middle income students. At least one in four non-attendees identify financial issues as an obstacle to further education.

The CFS notes that “Canadian research suggests that debt levels have a direct impact on success in post-secondary education. One study found that as student debt rose from less than $1000 to $10,000 per year, program completion rates for those with only loans (and no grants) plummeted from 59% to 8%. Similar conclusions can be drawn from Statistics Canada’s Youth In Transition Survey (YITS), which found that of those who cease their studies early, 36% cited financial reasons.”

Tuition at Canadian universities is rising faster than inflation, climbing 5% in 2012 (compared 2% inflation rate).

Neoliberal social policies have exacerbated the problems with student debt and access to higher education. Christy Clark’s BC Liberal government cut higher education by $46 million this year. In Alberta, higher education took a $100 million cut at the hands of the Alison Redford’s governing Progressive Conservative Party. As budgets are cut, colleges and universities (as well as K-12 schools) are encouraged to look for market-based solutions. BC colleges and universities are now ramping up efforts to recruit international students, who will pay five times the tuition charged to BC residence, in an effort to increase revenue. These recruitment efforts further restrict access to BC residents when there are already too few seats available in colleges and universities.

The ever increasing cost of higher education ultimately threatens existence of education as a public good in Canada (and the USA) and has deleterious effects on career choices and financial futures of millions of students as they face debt bondage. And this is not a circumstance limited to young people as many baby boomers who have gone back university are now struggling to repay their loans.

Lastly, student debt works to dampen critical thought and actions aimed at resisting the status quo. Noam Chomksy argues that “students who acquire large debts putting themselves through school are unlikely to think about changing society. When you trap people in a system of debt, they can’t afford the time to think. Tuition fee increases are a disciplinary technique, and, by the time students graduate, they are not only loaded with debt, but have also internalized the disciplinarian culture. This makes them efficient components of the consumer economy.” Exactly the kind of results neoliberal education policy makers are looking for.

Read The Georgia Straight article here:

Candidates should discuss free postsecondary education, say critics

by Carlito Pablo on Apr 25, 2013 at 3:11 am

Politicians on the campaign trail always say that education is a good thing. Yet many are silent about free university and college education.

Perhaps that’s because making this suggestion inevitably invites the question about money. What would it cost?

It doesn’t seem much, really. For fiscal year 2013-14, the B.C. government expects to collect about $1.4 billion in tuition and other fees. That’s only a small fraction—three percent—of a provincial budget totalling $44 billion.

The fact that many candidates don’t talk about free postsecondary education as a goal worth pursuing—one practical step at a time—indicates two things to Enda Brophy, an assistant professor of communications at SFU.

“On the one hand, I would argue that it demonstrates a lack of vision on their part,” Brophy told the Georgia Straight in a phone interview. “On the other, it quite obviously underscores their lack of commitment to a genuinely public education system. In other words, they can talk the talk regarding their commitment to public education, but walking the walk would mean taking concrete steps toward a free, public postsecondary system.”

According to the academic, there is an ethical argument to be made that “education should not be a commodity that is bought and sold.”

“In other words, that education and the production of knowledge, like health care, need to be accessible to anyone who wants it,” Brophy said.

As a nation, Canada committed to this ideal when it ratified the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights in 1976. The treaty states: “Higher education shall be made equally accessible to all, on the basis of capacity, by every appropriate means, and in particular by the progressive introduction of free education.”

A study released in January 2012 by the B.C. office of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives demonstrates that university-educated people pay, on average, $106,000 to $159,000 more in income taxes over their working lives than those with only a high-school diploma.

In Paid in Full: Who Pays for University Education in BC?, author and economist Iglika Ivanova notes that in contrast, a four-year degree costs $50,630, of which 40 percent is paid by students in tuition fees.

Ivanova concludes that “undergraduate education stands out as a profitable investment for the public treasury when all students’ payments for their education—both up-front tuition fees and additional income taxes paid over their careers—are compared with the costs of providing university education.”

In many countries in Europe and elsewhere, like Algeria and Cuba, free postsecondary education is more a rule rather than the exception, according to Simon Tremblay-Pepin. He is a researcher with IRIS (Institut de recherche et d’informations socio-économiques), a Quebec-based think tank that argues that the abolition of tuition fees is economically viable and socially just.

“If we’re talking about a progressive way to free education by lowering the fees year after year, it could be a good way,” Tremblay-Pepin told the Straight by phone when he was in Vancouver for a speaking engagement. “It’s not something that you need to do overnight. Still, you must have the objective in your head that you’re going to a free education and not just lowering fees for electoral reasons because you want to have the youth vote. That’s the difference between having a plan for society and trying to collect votes.”

B.C.’s Green party has declared that “universal and free” education at all levels is one of its long-term goals, promising an immediate reduction of 20 percent in tuition fees.

“The Green party is really out in front on this issue, much more so with a greater vision than either the [B.C.] NDP or the Liberals have offered at this point,” UBC education professor E. Wayne Ross told the Straight in an April 19 phone interview.

The ruling B.C. Liberals have pledged to cap tuition-fee increases at two percent. But with tuition fees having doubled since the Liberals returned to power in 2001, Ross noted that education is already “unaffordable”.

New Democrats have talked about a $100-million needs-based grant system. “That’s important because those needs-based grants have disappeared under the Liberals, but that’s a Band-Aid,” Ross said. “It doesn’t really address the overall problem that we face with student debt and the impact of the lack of access to higher education because of the tuition levels.”

Although the Greens are an “outlier” in the mainly Liberal–New Democrat contest, that’s a good thing, according to Ross. If their idea of free postsecondary education gets traction during this election campaign, the Greens may “pull parties like the NDP, in particular, maybe back towards the left side of the spectrum a little bit more”.

But Ross also noted that because neoliberalism, or the belief that the supremacy of the market trumps public good, is dominant in this age, perhaps the Greens might have a different message if their political fortunes were somewhat different: “If the Green party was more competitive, would the Green party ever say that? And I’m not trying to knock the Green party. I’m also trying to say that [as] the NDP moves towards what they see as the electable centre the closer, the better their [electoral] chances get.”

Source URL: http://www.straight.com/news/375006/candidates-should-discuss-free-postsecondary-education-say-critics

BC teachers want to regulate private interests in public education

GUIDELINES NEEDED TO PROTECT PUBLIC INTEREST
Straight Goods News

Delegates at the recent annual general meeeting of the BC Teachers’ Federation have voted to call on the provincial government to establish conflict-of-interest regulations governing school districts dealings with corporations.

Private businesses are seeking to profit from public education, and using increasingly sophisticated and aggressive schemes to market technology, textbooks, learning resources and many other products,” said Susan Lambert, past-president of the BCTF.

“It’s high time we had consistent and clear guidelines to protect the public interest.”

After more than a decade of chronic underfunding, schools, parents and teachers face mounting pressure to raise funds through private means to meet the needs of students across the province. Delegates voted to have the BCTF gather information on the extent of funding coming from corporate sponsorships and donations, Parent Advisory Committee fundraising and teachers’ personal donations.

“We believe it’s vitally important for British Columbians to understand the extent to which parents and teachers are subsidizing the public education system, and how hard individuals are working to bridge the gap between the needs in schools and the funding provided by government,” said Lambert. “Our study will document that.”

Read More: BCTF News release and Straight Goods News