06/03/2016 10:53 EDT | Updated 06/04/2017 05:12 EDT

Nothing Heroic About $25M 'Funding Increase' For Public Schools

Brian Snyder / Reuters
The gates of a school bus yard are locked after drivers walked off the job in the morning in Boston, Massachusetts October 8, 2013. Boston Mayor Thomas Menino vowed to punish school bus drivers who walked off the job on Tuesday in a labor action the city contended was illegal, and which even the drivers' union organization condemned. Some 33,000 public and private school students were left to find alternative routes to school on Tuesday after a union representing some 700 drivers and also represented by the United Steelworkers of America Local 8751 did not show up for work. REUTERS/Brian Snyder (UNITED STATES - Tags: BUSINESS EMPLOYMENT TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY)

Imagine you're back in high school and there's a bully who steals your lunch every day. Then one day after stealing your lunch, that same bully comes to you in the afternoon and hands you back half a sandwich, all the while making a big spectacle of his actions so that everyone sees what a nice guy he is.

He hopes that no one has noticed him stealing your lunch this morning -- and every morning prior -- and he wants to appear as the hero, a kind soul who is just trying to help someone in need.

This is exactly how I see the recent news that the B.C. government is giving $25 million back to school boards.

For the past 14 years the B.C. Liberals have been cutting funding and supports for public schools. This year alone the government asked school boards to find $25 million in "administrative cuts," last year it was $29 million.

This one-time funding announcement is not what I consider to be an addition to funding, but rather a reduction in this year's cuts.

On top of these yearly cuts boards also have to cover rising operational costs such as hydro and MSP, salary increases negotiated by the government and the government-implemented technology upgrades of around $24 million this year alone, none of which is covered by government funding.

So this one-time funding announcement is not what I consider to be an addition to funding, but rather a reduction in this year's cuts.

The minister of education said boards are free to use this money however they see fit and suggested creating new teaching positions as an example. But since this is a one-time funding increase, how can any board in good conscience create new positions when the funding to keep them going won't be there the following year?

The same goes for school closures. How can any board use this money to prevent school closures when they know next year they will be right back in the same position?

Bad timing

My district will be getting $593,000 (some larger districts are getting over a million, and 12 districts are getting under $100,000). That money can't prevent the two school closures this year (bringing the total to 14 in my district since 2002) considering we closed them to balance a deficit that ran over $2 million.

The Vancouver school board will still face a deficit of over $20 million and the amount given to Surrey won't do much to change the overcrowding issues or the fact that 7,000 kids in their district attend school in portables. The $110,000 they are getting in the district responsible for Osoyoos will most likely not change the decision to close their only high school.

This announcement of the $25 million also comes at what many would consider to be bad timing, as most boards have already completed their consultation and made the necessary decisions to deal with this year's cuts. School closures have already been decided, pink slips have already been handed out.

So why, you ask, would the government demand $25 million in cuts this year and then swoop in at the final hour to declare it was "adding" $25 million to the public education budget?

Well, much like my example at the beginning, they want to appear as heroes to the public. After all there is a provincial election right around the corner, and they know that public education will be a key election issue. So they want to create feel-good stories to give the appearance that they actually care or are committed to public education.

christy clark school classroom

This $25 million doesn't even began to address the damage done over the past 14 years, but the government is just hoping that Joe Public only sees them as the hero and will somehow forget that they are actually responsible for the mess they are now pretending to fix.

But it might be too little, too late for Premier Christy Clark and the B.C. Liberals, as the majority of parents in this province are no longer blind to the deplorable condition of the public education system in this province. After 14 years, the funding cuts can no longer be hidden or ignored, and most of us are smart enough to realize a one-time reduction in cuts won't undo the damage.

Regardless of any new feel-good announcements over the next few months, a vote for the B.C. Liberals in the next election is a vote for four more years of school closures, overcrowded classrooms and devastating funding cuts.

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