MLA defends education funding

Vernon Teachers Association wants province to increase budget

Teachers are protesting education funding, but one politician is defending Victoria’s actions.

The Vernon Teachers Association is demanding the provincial government increase the budget to bring it up to what it calls the national average.

“Funding has gone up substantially while enrolment has decreased,” said Eric Foster, Vernon-Monashee MLA.

“There are an increased number of special needs assistants in the classroom. It’s unfair for the VTA to give a flat comment that we’re not funding education.”

VTA officials say kindergarten to Grade 12 spending as a percentage of gross domestic product has climbed across Canada but is stagnant in B.C.

“This widening gap is leaving B.C. schools relatively worse off compared to the rest of the country,” said Kevin Bader, president.

Bader says the number of special needs students has grown while special education teachers have been cut.

“It is simplistic to say there are fewer kids and more dollars,” he said.

“The reality is costs have gone up substantially and funding increases have not been enough to preserve the same level of services our students  had a decade ago.”

Bader also says the B.C. student-to-teacher ratio indicator was the worst in Canada for 2009/10.

A similar view is coming from the North Okanagan-Shuswap Teachers’ Association.

“The stark reality is that funding increases have not been large enough to preserve the same levels of service our students had a decade ago,” said president Lynda Bennett.

“We believe these services are vitally important to the students in schools now and to the social and economic health of the province in the long term.”

Foster questions if the timing of the unions’ statements coincides with looming contract negotiations between teachers and their employers.

“Doing negotiations in the paper is not the way to do it,” he said.

“If they have constructive suggestions for improving the system, we’re willing to sit down and discuss it.”