03/04/2016 11:49 EST | Updated 03/05/2017 05:12 EST

All BC School Districts Are Struggling -- Not Just Vancouver

Barry Rosenthal via Getty Images
Teacher erasing math problem on blackboard, close-up

Despite seeing an increase in enrolment across BC, school districts are facing yet anther year of devastating budget cuts. In Nanaimo (sd68) will be closing 2 more schools at the end of this year, bringing the count to 14 schools closed, in this district alone, since the Liberals have lead the province in 2002. But we are hardly alone, since 2002 the BC Liberals have closed 240 schools across BC (not including this years closures) .

The government cites declining enrollment for both schools closures and constant cuts to overall funding. They blame school boards for mismanaging their money, constantly insisting they just need to cut the low hanging fruit. They blame teachers for asking for too much with their salaries and class size demands, despite the fact that we have some of the lowest paid teachers and highest class sizes in Canada.

In School District 68 the 14 years of cuts having taken their toll on boards, teachers, admin, parents and students. We have been through multiple consultations over the years and despite closing 14 schools, cutting admin costs to the point where it accounts for less the 2% of our whole budget, deferring $97 million in maintenance costs, cutting janitorial services back further then almost any other district, cutting teaching positions, cutting programs, bus services and everything else you can imagine, our district is still facing a deficit this year.

This constant assertion by our government that their funding formula works just fine and the never ending finger pointing at boards, teachers and enrollment numbers is just a huge slap in the face. I challenge you to find one board that will agree that the funding they are given is adequate or sufficient. Find me one PAC who doesn't work hard all year to raise thousands of dollars to cover funding shortfalls. Find me one district who hasn't cut services to the bone and isn't waiting to have millions of dollars in maintenance projects completed.

I also cant help think that although some areas have seen a decrease in enrollment, that the bigger picture on capacity numbers might lay with the Liberals changes to class sizes.

Standards used in 2002 showed normal classroom capacity to be measure at: Kindergarten-20 students and grades 1-3 was 22 students and grade 4-12 was 28 students. Today they require 22 students for kindergarten, grades 1-3 is 24 students and grades 4-12 to be 30 students. These changes might seem minor but when you add them up it becomes clear how this can greatly effect enrollment and capacity numbers.

For example lets look at an elementary school that has 2 kindergarten classes, 7 classes of grades 1-3 and 7 classes of grades 4-7. Using the old formula the schools capacity would be set at 390 students and lets say, for arguments sake, that was how many students were currently enrolled. Now the new formula comes into place which would bring the capacity to 422 students. So this school would have gone from 100% full to about 92% full just with class size changes. Now if this school had a multi purpose or music room that counts as 30 more seats which would bring the capacity to 452 which means they have now dropped to 85% capacity. This has a huge impact when the government is requiring school districts to be at least 95% at capacity.

The government only cares about how many empty seats there are right now, there is no thought to the future or what we will do if the population increases. Mostly because they really don't care how full the schools are as long as they are full. You will never hear the BC Liberal's express concern over schools that are bursting at the seams at 130%+ capacity, or schools whose properities are consumed with portables because to them that's much more efficient then having a school at 90% capacity.

In school district 68 my sons elementary school has added a portable every year since he has been there, and will most likely continue that trend for next year. Of course 2 elementary schools were closed in our area not long ago because of declining enrollment. Also despite most of the schools in that area experiencing the same increases in lower grade levels the high school in his catchment will close at the end of this year forcing students from our area to head further south to another high school. (It is also worth noting that high school is in need of upgrades and is labeled a high risk ).

Year after year the BC Liberals continue to show complete disregard for our public education system. Schools are closing, services are being cut and our children are losing their most basic right to a good quality, equal and fair public education.

Teachers, trustees and many others have been advocating for better funding in our schools for years, its now time for the parent voice to be heard. I urge all parents in BC to visit this easy to use site set up by Families Against Cuts to Education (FACE) to send your MLA an email voicing the need for better funding in our public schools found here.

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