Category Archives: Budgets & Funding

Vancouver’s polar opposites in funding K-12 v University #ubc #vsb39 #ubceduc #bced

UBC's Robert H. Lee Alumni Centre

UBC’s Robert H. Lee Alumni Centre

Stephen Petrina & E. Wayne Ross, Vancouver Observer, October 7, 2016– Vancouver, the city of disparities, is faced with polar opposites in its educational system.

The contrast between K-12 schools and the university in Vancouver could not be more stark: The schools sinking in debt with rapidly declining enrolments and empty seats versus the university swimming in cash and bloating quotas to force excessive enrolments beyond capacity.

With central offices just 7km or 12 minutes apart, the two operate as if in different hemispheres or eras: the schools laying off teachers and planning to close buildings versus the university given a quota for preparing about 650 teachers for a glutted market with few to no jobs on the remote horizon in the largest city of the province.

There is a gateway from grade 12 in high school to grade 13 in the university but from a finance perspective there appears an unbreachable wall between village and castle.

Pundits and researchers are nonetheless mistaken in believing that the Vancouver schools’ current $22m shortfall is disconnected from the university’s $36m real estate windfall this past year.

The schools are begging for funds from the Liberals, who, after saying no to K-12, turn around to say yes to grades 13-24 and pour money into the University of British Columbia, no questions asked.

There may be two ministries in government, Education and Advanced Education; there is but one tax-funded bank account.

Read More: Vancouver Observer

#BCED and the politics of education funding #bcpoli #yteubc

BCTFMay2014

Tara Ehrcke, May 28, 2014, RankandFile.ca— Two days into rotating strikes and a “partial” lockout by the BC government, independent polling shows strong support for the teachers. An Angus Reid poll showed that among the general public, 41 percent supported the teachers while 30 percent support the government. Among parents with children in school, the support is stronger, with 51 percent supporting the teachers and only 28 percent support for the government.

The issue has also drawn the attention of BC’s opposition parties – both the NDP and the Greens (who have one sitting MLA). But while neither party supports the current actions of the government, they are also unwilling to take a clear stance supporting the demands of the teachers – in particular, the restoration of class size and class composition limits and a fair salary increase.

The NDP does not have a great track record on this issue. I’ve been following their position in every election since the limits were illegally stripped back in 2002. Not once since 2002 has the NDP come out in support of restoring the limits and reinstating teachers’ collective agreement language. I have personally asked this question in 2005, 2008 and 2013, and never has an NDP candidate I have spoken to committed to restoring the language or the funding.

In the last election, in 2013, the NDP platform included $100 million for education. This is dismally short of the $300 million needed to restore class sizes and additional funding to address increased costs to school boards. But sadly, it is even less than the $178 million they were proposing in 2005.

While the NDP is happy to attack the Liberals for their bargaining tactics, they haven’t made a concrete commitment to do anything different with respect to funding and restoring our contract. In yesterday’s question period, new NDP leader John Horgan chastised Education Minister Peter Fassbender saying, ”a 12-year record of destabilizing public education. A child who started in grade 1 in 2002 has had 12 years of confusion as the result of this government’s policies.”

But never once in that twelve years has the NDP promised to do the right thing. The issue is not “confusion” as he claims, rather the issue is large, complex classes and too few resources.

It sometimes feels that the NDP simply like to use our situation to play partisan politics rather than address the issues. The biggest media story they made of the last court case (when our contract stripping was found illegal for a second time) was the fact that the judge found the government to have provoked a strike. While important, the revelation about the government’s deliberate provocation of the strike pales in comparison to systematically underfunding schools and robbing teacher’s of their constitutional rights.

The Greens have also weighed in on the dispute, with a frustrating opinion piece by interim party leader Adam Olsen and a more thoughtful, if still problematic, blog post from MLA Andrew Weaver. Both refuse to take sides, implicitly suggesting the teachers’ complaints are not justified. Olsen writes, “it appears they have given up on making a real effort to find common ground, and instead focused their efforts on winning a publicity battle that is detrimental to our children and their teachers.”

I wonder if either Olsen or Weaver believe that if someone steals your house, and you get into a feud about it, the right answer is to just split it in half in a compromise?

Party politics aside, teachers are strong on the ground and the mood solid.Teachers are angry about the lockout, in which we do all our work for 90% of our pay. But spirits are high – we’re giving it our 90%!

Tara Ehrcke is bargaining chair and past president of the Greater Victoria Teachers’ Association.

Read More: RankandFile.ca

Embarrassing recent events in Canadian higher education #cdnpse #GeorgeRammell #RobertBuckingham @usask

I’ll admit to a quaint hope that universities are still places where dialogue and dissent are both possible and desirable, but two incidents in the last week leave me scratching my head. The first is the theft of professor George Rammell’s sculpture by the Capilano University administration, and the second is the firing of Robert Buckingham, Dean of the School of Public Health at the University of Saskatchewan. The issues in the two cases are not the same, but what both share is an unbelievable authoritarianism on the part of the upper administration, a willingness to trample on academic freedom and the absolute intolerance of resistance or disagreement about program cuts and restructuring. The point is not whether each of these universities plans for budget cutting and trimming are appropriate (that would be a different post), but the response to faculty and middle management who DARE to disagree with the upper administration. If this doesn’t have a chilling effect on everyone in Canadian higher education, well we are all being just too polite.

THE CASE OF THE MISSING SCULPTURE

At Capilano University there have been severe program cuts. One program area in which cuts are deep is the arts. George Rammell, sculpture instructor, used his scholarly form of expression to comment on those cuts ~ he created Blathering on in Krisendom, a work in progress  depicting Capilano University president Kris Bulcroft wrapped in a U.S. flag with a poodle. The sculpture went missing last week:

“I immediately called security and the guard told me that orders were given by the top level of the Administration to seize it. I could hardly believe my ears. The Administration had ordered my piece removed off campus to an undisclosed location, without any consultation or prior discussion. I was shocked and not sure if this was Canada,” Rammell stated (as reported in the Georgia Straight).

Jane Shackell, chair of the Board of Governors, released a statement saying that Capilano was “committed to the open and vigorous discourse that is essential in an academic community.” But she had the sculpture removed because it was “workplace harassment of an individual employee, intended to belittle and humiliate the president.” A post for another time, but this might well be the most egregious, inappropriate use of respectful workplace rhetoric to create a workplace where dialogue, dissent, and discourse are not allowed.

Of course, Rammell’s work is easy for the University to steal, but the parallel for some of us might be an administration that comes to your office and wipes all of the files for that critical analysis of higher education book you are working on from your computer. After being AWOL for a week, Capilano University has agreed to return Rammell’s work, but has banned the sculpture from campus and Rammell calls that censorship. It is and it isn’t harassment either. So much for academic freedom.

THE SILENCE OF THE DEANS

Then comes the news, Robert Buckingham, Dean of the School of Public Health at the University of Saskatchewan was fired, relieved of his professorial appointment and tenure, and escorted of the campus ~ for disagreeing publicly with the administration’s restructuring and budget cutting plan, TransformUS.

In discussions of TransformUS, middle managers were ordered to get in line and on board with the plan, and threatened if they spoke publicly against it. Here’s the email from the provost:

 

That a University would want deans who are lackeys and submissive to the upper administration’s “messaging” says a great deal about that administration. Unlike the CapU incident, this is less about academic freedom and all about the importance of maintaining an openness to dialogue and disagreement within the University. Such a heavy handed administrative approach assaults our sensibilities about how even the modern, corporatized U operates. On top of all that, the termination of Buckingham comes a mere five weeks from his retirement and is amazingly mean-spirited.

CAUT director, Jim Turk said:

What the president of the University of Saskatchewan has done is an embarrassment to the traditions and history of the University of Saskatchewan and it’s an embarrassment to post-secondary education across Canada. It’s inexcusable.

He’s right about that!

#BCed teachers may move to rotating strikes #bcpoli #yteubc #edstudies

CBC News, May 12, 2014–Parents in B.C. are being prepared for an escalation in teacher job action should current contract negotiations fail.

Vancouver School Board superintendent of schools, Steve Cardwell hasissued a letter to all parents and guardians warning of potential rotating school closures across the province should a settlement not be reached.

“We understand that the BCTF may choose to escalate their job action to a second phase which could include ‘rotating’ school closures,” the letter states.

“If this were to occur, the union would be providing us 48 hours of notice and we would, of course, advise parents of this action.”

The letter was not intended to alarm parents, says VSB spokesperson Kurt Heinrich. Rather it was intended to keep them in the loop.

“A big part of that is just to make sure that parents aren’t going to be caught unaware of the situation,” he said.

“As soon as we would receive that notice, we would immediately be communicating it to our parent population so they would know what to expect. And then we would go from there “

A  B.C. Teachers’ Federation spokesperson said that while escalating job action is a possibility, there are no plans at the moment to move to stage 2 job action.

During stage 1 action, teachers are refusing to supervise students outside the classroom or communicate in writing with principals and other administrators.

Teachers are still taking attendance, marking and assessing students, completing report cards, communicating with parents and participating in volunteer extracurricular activities.

Their contracts expired last June, and the federation says it’s being forced to take action because negotiations are slow.

Read More: CBC News

Vancouver schools reject $475k in Chevron funding #bced #bcpoli #yteubc #edstudies

Paula Baker, Global BC, May 9, 2014– It’s been a tough time recently for the Vancouver School District. Trustees need to find $12 million in savings to deal with a budget deficit, last month the district’s band program was almost eliminated until one-time funding was found to keep it going for another year, and in September,teachers will have to pay for their own parking.

Considering the budget challenges the Vancouver district is facing, many are surprised to learn that the school board turned down $475,000 from Chevron Canada – even though other districts have accepted the money.

According to Chevron spokesperson, Adrien Byrne, they were turned down by the Vancouver School District in a matter of about 24 hours.

Chevron’s Fuel your School program allows teachers to directly apply for grants with a specific focus on math, science, and technology. Chevron has 24 retail outlets in Vancouver and beginning in October,  $1 from each fill-up would go the program.

Chevron says there was to be no advertising at schools, the only corporate representation will be a Fuel your School decal, which would be seen at the gas pumps.

“Our view is we’re happy to take your funds, give it to us with no strings attached, no logo as other corporations do that,” said Mike Lombardi, Vancouver School Trustee.

“They don’t want to do it that way, that’s fine. We’ll look for other corporate sponsors who are happy to donate to our education program.”

Read More & Video: Global BC

Vancouver schools dip into contingency funds, layoff teachers #bced #bcpoli #yteubc

Tracy Sherlock, Vancouver Sun, May 1, 2014– Vancouver School Board trustees have saved their band and strings programs, decided not to close for three extra days in November, and will keep the district’s athletic director, but will be using up nearly all of their capital reserve fund to do so.

The reserve fund is made up of income the district makes from leasing out property and is normally kept as a contingency at about one per cent of the nearly $500-million total budget. A budget passed by the board on Wednesday night reduces that $5-million fund to just $500,000.

Budget reductions in other areas will result in more than 26 full-time positions being eliminated, on top of the 24 positions already slated to be cut due to declining enrolment or previous decisions, such as a plan to close an adult education centre.

“We didn’t save the day. We deferred the inevitable,” said school board chairwoman Patti Bacchus on Thursday. “We were very clear last night that we’re taking a big risk and we’re putting whoever is elected next year in a tough spot. This will make next year’s budget even harder.”

The school board is forecasting a $26.6-million shortfall for the 2015-16 school year and a $3.76-million shortfall for the 2016-17 year, when enrolment is projected to increase. School board elections will be held this fall.

Read More: Vancouver Sun

Read more: http://www.vancouversun.com/business/Vancouver+School+Board+balances+budget+dipping+into+contingency+funds/9797740/story.html#ixzz31HmyS3MB

67 Vancouver adult educators laid off #bced #bcpoli #yteubc

VESTA, May 8, 2014– On Friday, May 2, 2014, the Vancouver School Board issued layoff notices to 67 employees working in Adult Education. These layoffs affect dedicated employees hired as far back as July 1998.  This is the second year of layoffs in a row affecting Adult Educators in Vancouver. These layoffs are the direct result of detrimental changes in Adult Education funding policy initiated by the provincial government. The BC government established an “Education Guarantee” in 2008 that allowed graduated adult learners to access a wide range of courses leading to the completion of education programs as part of career transitions. In the spring of 2012, the BC Government continued their pattern of reducing funding to public education by restricting courses available to adults under the “Education Guarantee”.  The definition of a graduated adult was altered which had the effect of further reducing the number of students eligible to study in adult education. According to Chris Murphy, President of the Vancouver Adult Educators’ sublocal, “The net consequence of these two measures created a manufactured decline in student enrolment. This has devastated our system and reduced accessibility to adult education programs.”

Additionally, the increasing numbers of school-aged students in Vancouver’s downtown core without the provincial government authorizing the construction of needed schools has resulted in the Vancouver School Board’s decision to close the Roberts’ Adult Education Centre and to reallocate the classroom space to elementary students. Second, the Board relocated and downsized the Main St. Adult Education Centre to Gladstone Secondary. In combination, this will result in fewer classes available, and a reduced ability for adult learners to attend easily accessible schools.

According to Gerry Kent, President of VESTA, “The Vancouver School Board was aware, in February 2013, of the need for more space downtown to accommodate Roberts Education Centre, but failed to plan for this eventuality. Now many adult learners will be left with reduced options for attaining their educational goals.”

632 Coquitlam #bced teachers getting layoff notices #bcpoli #yteubc

CBC, May 8, 2014– The Coquitlam School District says it is laying off 632 teachers effective June 30 to help cover a $13 million dollar shortfall and nearly 100 of them may not be recalled as has been the usual practise in previous years.

Large annual layoff notices are common in Coquitlam as the district meets contractual obligations to provide notice when it’s reorganizing, but Superintendent Thomas Grant says this year’s layoffs are larger than normal and not as many teachers will be recalled.

Last year he said 400 teachers received layoff notices, but all but two were recalled. This year he says it’s likely the district will not be recalling 90 to 100 teachers.

“The numbers of layoff this year are extremely high. it’s devastatingly high,” Grant said.

“Most years, a lot of this was accounted for through retirements. Unfortunately for us this year, it looks like we’re not going to get the large numbers of retirements that we normally get, in part because we are a very young district.”

Grant says there are also fewer secondary students registered for September which means fewer secondary school teachers although that is in part made up by an increase in elementary school enrolments.

Click here to read the teacher layoff notice

CFP: Educate, Agitate, Organize! Teacher Resistance Against Neoliberal Reforms (Special Issue of Workplace)

Educate, Agitate, Organize! Teacher Resistance Against Neoliberal Reforms

Call for Papers

Special Issue
Workplace: A Journal for Academic Labor

Guest Editors:
Mark Stern, Colgate University
Amy Brown, University of Pennsylvania
Khuram Hussain, Hobart and William Smith Colleges

I can tell you with confidence, one year later [from the Measure of Progress test boycott in Seattle schools], I know where our actions will lead: to the formation of a truly mass civil rights movement composed of parents, teachers, educational support staff, students, administrators, and community members who want to end high-stakes standardized testing and reclaim public education from corporate reformers.—Jesse Hagopian, History Teacher and Black Student Union Adviser at Garfield High School, Seattle

As many of us have documented in our scholarly work, the past five years have witnessed a full-fledged attack on public school teachers and their unions. With backing from Wall Street and venture philanthropists, the public imaginary has been saturated with images and rhetoric decrying teachers as the impediments to ‘real’ change in K-12 education. Docu-dramas like Waiting For ‘Superman,’ news stories like Steve Brill’s, “The Teachers’ Unions’ Last Stand,” in The New York Times Magazineand high profile rhetoric like Michelle Rhee’s mantra that students, not adults, need to be “put first” in education reform, all point to this reality: teachers face an orchestrated, billion dollar assault on their professional status, their knowledge, and their abilities to facilitate dialogical spaces in classrooms. This assault has materialized and been compounded by an austerity environment that is characterized by waning federal support and a narrow corporate agenda. Tens of thousands of teachers have suffered job loss, while thousands more fear the same.

Far from being silent, teachers are putting up a fight. From the strike in Chicago, to grassroots mobilizing to wrest control of the United Federation of Teachers in New York, to public messaging campaigns in Philadelphia, from boycotts in Seattle to job action and strikes in British Columbia, teachers and their local allies are organizing, agitating and confronting school reform in the name of saving public education. In collaboration with parents, community activists, school staff, students, and administrators, teacher are naming various structures of oppression and working to reclaim the conversation and restore a sense of self-determination to their personal, professional, and civic lives.

This special issue of Workplace calls for proposals to document the resistance of teachers in the United States, Canada, and globally. Though much has been written about the plight of teachers under neoliberal draconianism, the reparative scholarship on teachers’ educating, organizing, and agitating is less abundant. This special issue is solely dedicated to mapping instances of resistance in hopes of serving as both resource and inspiration for the growing movement.

This issue will have three sections, with three different formats for scholarship/media. Examples might include:

I. Critical Research Papers (4000-6000 words)

  • Qualitative/ethnographic work documenting the process of teachers coming to critical consciousness.
  • Critical historiographies linking trajectories of political activism of teachers/unions across time and place.
  • Documenting and theorizing teacher praxis—protests, community education campaigns, critical agency in the classroom.
  • Critical examinations of how teachers, in specific locales, are drawing on and enacting critical theories of resistance (Feminist, Politics of Love/Caring/Cariño, Black Radical Traditions, Mother’s Movements, and so on).

II. Portraits of Resistance

  • Autobiographical sketches from the ground. (~2000 words)
  • Alternative/Artistic representations/Documentations of Refusal (poetry, visual art, photography, soundscapes)

III. Analysis and Synthesis of Various Media

  • Critical book, blog, art, periodical, music, movie reviews. (1500-2000 words)

400-word abstracts should be sent to Mark Stern (mstern@colgate.edu) by May 15, 2014. Please include name, affiliation, and a very brief (3-4 sentences) professional biography.

Notifications of acceptance will be sent out by June 15. Final drafts will be due October 1, 2014. Please note that having your proposal accepted does not guarantee publication. All final drafts will go through peer-review process. Authors will be notified of acceptance for publication by November 1.

Please direct all questions to Mark Stern (mstern@colgate.edu).

#BCed budget 2014 empty promises #bcpoli #ubc #yteub #bced

BCTF, February 18, 2014– British Columbia’s latest budget is full of empty promises, ignores real problems, and will increase instability in BC’s public education system, BCTF First Vice-President Glen Hansman said today.

“Budget 2014 makes a lot of promises about trades, transforming education, and supporting teachers and students, but there is nothing to back those promises up,” said Hansman. “For example, there is a long list of promises around trades education and its importance to BC’s economic future. However, there is no new funding to deal with the unsafe and overcrowded shop classes we have across the province today. BC teachers used to have contract language limiting the number of students in a technology education class to 24. But since Christy Clark unconstitutionally stripped our collective agreements in 2002, class sizes have grown and become unsafe. The government’s decision to appeal the BC Supreme Court’s latest ruling shows the BC Liberals are not serious about improving learning conditions in BC schools or about their own policy initiatives.”

According to Statistics Canada, British Columbia currently funds public education $1,000 less per student than the national average. Only PEI is worse than BC, and this gap in funding continues to have serious implications for students.

“Budget 2014 is another step back for education funding and means BC kids are still being short-changed compared to other students across Canada,” said Hansman. “There is no new funding to deal with millions in rising costs downloaded onto school districts like another MSP hike and huge BC Hydro increases. That means, despite the government’s claims, more cuts to classrooms and less services to support all children, including those with special needs.

“Christy Clark’s government has claimed that there is no way to reduce class sizes, hire the needed specialist teachers, and improve class composition. However, there is a surplus and a sizable contingency fund. The government just chose not to put the funds into schools and education. After losing two rounds in BC Supreme Court, it’s time for government to respect teachers, the work we do, and properly fund BC’s education system.”

BC teachers and the BC Public School Employers’ Association have been at the bargaining table for over a year. Teachers expect the government to enable the employer to negotiate a fair deal, in good faith, that will recognize the important work that BC public school teachers do every day and put new resources into classrooms.

Read More: BCTF

Academic job market decimated, crashing #highered #edstudies #criticaled #caut #aaup #bced #bcpoli

Oftentimes, the academic job market for full-time (FT) faculty is inversely related to economic recessions. Not anymore. In this prolonged Great Recession, turned Great Depression II in parts of North America and across the world, youth have been particularly hard hit, more pronounced by race. The most common description for this current economy for youth is “a precipitous decline in employment and a corresponding increase in unemployment.” In Canada and the US, unemployment rates for the 16-19 year olds exceed 25%. At the same time, one of the most common descriptions for postsecondary enrollment and participation in Canada and the US is “tremendous growth at the undergraduate level… the number of graduate students has grown significantly faster than the number of undergraduate students over the last 30 years.” With “school-to-work” and “youth employment” oxymoronic, corporate academia and the education industry are capitalizing on masses of students returning to desperately secure advanced credentials in hard times, but no longer does this matter to the professoriate.

If higher education enrollment has been significant, increases in online or e-learning enrollment have been phenomenal. Postsecondary institutions in North America commonly realized 100% increases in online course enrollment from the early 2000s to the present with the percentage of total registrations increasing to 25% for some universities. In Canada, this translates to about 250,000 postsecondary students currently taking online courses but has not translated into FT faculty appointments. More pointedly, it has eroded the FT faculty job market and fueled the part-time (PT) job economy of higher education. About 50% of all faculty in North America are PT but this seems to jump to about 85%-90% for those teaching online courses. For example, in the University of British Columbia’s (UBC) Master of Educational Technology (MET), where there are nearly 1,000 registrations per year, 85% of all sections are taught by PT faculty. In its decade of existence, not a single FT faculty member has been hired for this revenue generating program. Mirroring trends across North America, support staff doubling as adjunct or sessional teach about 45% of MET courses in addition to their 8:30-4:30 job functions in the service units. These indicators are of a larger scope of trends in the automation of intellectual work.

Given these practices across Canada, in the field of Education for example, there has been a precipitous decline in employment of FT faculty, which corresponds with the precipitous decline in employment of youth (Figure 1). Education is fairly reflective of the overall academic job market for doctorates in Canada. Except for short-term trends in certain disciplines, the market for PhDs is bleak. Trends and an expansion of the Great Recession predict that the market will worsen for graduates looking for FT academic jobs in all disciplines. A postdoctoral appointment market is very unlikely to materialize at any scale to offset trends. For instance, Education at UBC currently employs just a handful (i.e., 4-5) of postdocs.

To put it in mild, simple terms: Universities changed their priorities and values by devaluing academic budget lines. Now in inverse relationship to the increases in revenue realized by universities through the 2000s, academic budgets were progressively reduced from 40% or more to just around 20% for many of these institutions. One indicator of this trend is the expansion of adjunct labor or PT academics. In some colleges or faculties, such as Education at UBC, the number of PT faculty, which approached twice that of FT in 2008, teach from 33% to 85% of all sections, depending on the program.

Another indicator is the displacement of tenure track research faculty by non-tenure track, teaching-intensive positions. For example, in Education at UBC, about 18 of the last 25 FT faculty hires were for non-tenure track teaching-intensive positions (i.e., 10 courses per year for Instructor, Lecturer, etc.). This was partially to offset a trend of PT faculty hires pushing Education well over its faculty salary budget (e.g., 240 PT appointments in 2008). Measures in North America have been so draconian that the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) was compelled to report in 2010 that “the tenure system has all but collapsed…. the proportion of teaching-intensive to research-intensive appointments has risen sharply. However, the majority of teaching-intensive positions have been shunted outside of the tenure system.” What is faculty governance, other than an oligarchy, with a handful of faculty governing or to govern?

Read More: Petrina, S. & Ross, E. W. (2014). Critical University Studies: Workplace, Milestones, Crossroads, Respect, TruthWorkplace, 23, 62-71.

BC schools class composition worse than ever #bced #bcpoli #ubc #yteubc #edstudies

BCTF New Release, January 8, 2014– Data on BC’s education system released by the government shows our province’s class composition is worse than ever before, said BCTF President Jim Iker. There are over 16,000 classes with four or more children with special needs.

“BC teachers fully support including all students, like those with special needs, in our classrooms, but 12 years of cutbacks have meant those kids are not getting the support they need,” said Iker. “Ever since the BC Liberal government stripped our collective agreement in 2002, learning conditions for all students have deteriorated. We see the results today because more teachers than ever before are dealing with overly complex classrooms without the support of specialist teachers to support students.”

The data released by the Ministry of Education shows there are 16,163 classes with four or more students with special needs. That represents one in four of all classes in BC. In addition, a staggering 3,875 classes have seven or more children with special needs in them. The data also highlights concerns with the support available for English Language Learners (ELL) formerly known as ESL in BC. There are 4,636 classes with seven or more English Language Learners (ELL). Within that total are 1,956 Kindergarten to Grade 3 classes with seven or more English Language Learners.

“Class composition is one of the most important aspects in education,” said Iker. “An overly complex class puts immense pressure on the teacher to meet the needs of all students. As teachers, we fully support and embrace diversity in learning styles and needs in our classrooms, but we can only do so much without extra support before students lose out.”

Iker also pointed out that the worsening of class composition year-over-year has coincided with dramatic cuts to learning specialist teachers. For example, since 2002 BC has lost approximately 700 special education teachers and over 300 English Language Learner teachers. Furthermore, BC has the worst student-educator ratio in Canada and funds education $1,000 less per student than the national average.

“BC teachers are among the best in the world, but this government is making it harder for them to do their jobs and harder for students to get the education they deserve,” said Iker. “It’s time for government to step up, correct their past mistakes, and address BC’s worsening class composition.”

Click here to view the Class composition chart.

Generation of BC students short-changed by government #bced #bcpoli #ubc #yteubc #edstudies

BCTF News Release, January 27, 2014– Marking the 12th anniversary of Bill 28, the unconstitutional legislation that stripped teachers’ collective agreements, BCTF President Jim Iker said the result is that a generation of students in BC have been short-changed.

“Children who were in Kindergarten in 2002 when government illegally stripped class-size and class-composition language from our collective agreements are now in Grade 12,” said Iker. “The result is those students, an entire generation of BC kids, have spent their whole K–12 education in larger classes with less one-on-one-time and less support from specialist teachers like counsellors and special education teachers.”

Iker explained that stripping teachers’ working conditions from collective agreements actually enabled the government to underfund education, which has led to the deterioration of students’ learning conditions.

“It is because of the support of parents and the hard work of teachers, who are doing more with less, that BC’s public education system is still as strong as it is,” said Iker. “But more and more teachers are telling me that further cutbacks, or even the status quo, are unsustainable.”

Due to the government’s illegal actions in 2002 and subsequent underfunding, BC has fallen behind the rest of Canada in support for public education.

  • BC is last on seven key measures of education funding in Canada.
  • BC is second worst in terms of per-student funding at $1,000 less than the national average. Only PEI is doing worse.
  • BC has the country’s worst student-educator ratio. That means there are more students per educator than anywhere else in Canada.
  • There are over 16,000 classes, 25% of BC’s total, with four or more children with special needs in them. That is a staggering 70% since 2006. It means all kids are getting less one-on-one time with their teachers. And, it means kids who need extra help aren’t getting it.
  • BC has lost 1,400 specialist teachers since 2002 even as the need for their services has gone up significantly. Close to 700 special education teachers, over 100 counsellors, and 300 teacher-librarians have all been cut from the system.

“After 12 years, with 2002’s Kindergarten class now graduating, it’s time to recognize that government has not lived up to British Columbians’ expectations,” said Iker. “It’s unacceptable that BC is the second worst in Canada on per-student funding and has the worst student-educator ratio. It’s time to end the cuts and begin to bring BC’s education funding up to at least the national average. That will give teachers and students the resources they need to make our public education system even better.”

 Background

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