The Vancouver School Board is not giving in to the demands of the BC Ministry of Education to shut up and make $17 million dollars in budget cuts that will result in closed schools, cancelled programs, and teacher layoffs.
The board says it has balanced its budget, as required by law, but to do so it had to make brutal cuts to education programs because its budget of about $480 million is not sufficient to cover rising costs, including salaries, pensions and MSP payments. It estimates its shortfall is about $17 million. But Wenezenki-Yolland concluded the board has sufficient resources to deliver a quality education program but has wasted money through poor governance, a lack of strategic planning and missed opportunities. She suggested several actions to improve the bottom line — including raising rents, cancelling non-core services such as junior kindergarten and closing schools — but Bacchus said the board was already considering such actions.
One of the primary criticisms levelled at the VSB in the Comptroller General’s report is that trustees spend too much time, energy, and resources on “advocacy,” that is lobbying the government for increased funding that will improve teaching and learning conditions in Vancouver schools. The Comptroller General and Minister of Education want the trustees to make “cost containment” their number one priority.
Fiscal responsibility and advocating for adequate funding is not an “either/or” choice. VSB chair Patti Bacchus and the majority of trustees understand this. But as this piece in the Vancouver Courier makes clear, the ministry wants the trustees to act like bureaucrats and just do what they’re told. For some reason government (and at least a couple of the trustees) think there’s no place for advocacy or “politics” in education. That’s either an extremely naive or disingenuous understanding of what democracy is all about, as Paul Shaker and I point out in our comments to the the Courier.
So, BC Liberals castigate the VSB trustees for doing what many promised in their election campaigns—advocating for the district by resisting chronic underfunding of the education system and downloading of costs. While at the same time BC Liberals spend billions of taxpayer dollars on propaganda about how their neoliberal economic policies (that allow a handful of private interests to control as much as possible of social life in order to maximize their personal profit) are good for the rest of us. There’s more than a little irony in the decision by Elections BC that the government’s HST propaganda violates the law.