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Resident insists taxpayers don't have the willingness to pay more for education

I see the teachers are on strike again. What else is new? For 50 years, ever since I was a child, the teachers have gone on strike in Alberta and B.C. Their main arguments haven’t changed in 50 years either: (1) “We have a hard time delivering quality education (whatever that is) because of salaries, funding, class sizes, special needs, hunger, supplies, etc.” (2) Teachers and children in other places get more money. This time around, it’s, “My child in B.C. is worth $1,000 less than Alberta kids.”

Their conclusions haven’t changed in 50 years, either, being a mix of smaller classes, better conditions, and more money — more salary, more funding per child and more wage parity with higher (never lower) paid teachers in other places, etc.

Just for fun, I made a spreadsheet from the 2014 B.C. provincial budget expense figures by ministry. By my rough figures, the money was spent on health 47 per cent; education 30 per cent; social services; government and justice all about five per cent; roads, forest and energy all about two per cent; and other (trade, agriculture, etc.) about five per cent all together. So education, all forms, gets 30 per cent. I think no one can seriously argue against the teachers’ position that they could deliver a better education to society with smaller class sizes, fewer special needs kids and better school funding.

Similarly, no one can seriously argue with nurses that they could deliver better medical care with more doctors, beds and operating rooms, etc. Of course we’d like everyone in society to have lower ratios of 1:10 (or whatever) for our shared teachers and doctors and justice system.

It seems to me the issue is that society (you, me, the government and taxes) doesn’t want to pay for the lower ratios and upscale level of service visions. Society simply can’t pay for them.

It’s simple math that is taught in school. Cut class sizes by half and double the 30 per cent costs — double the rooms, double the teachers to 60 per cent of the budget. Or double the number of doctors and hospital beds from 47 to 94 per cent of the budget.

None of this will ever happen. It can’t happen, obviously.

I used 50 per cent half/double to make the math easy in this letter, but the point holds for all percentages. Society doesn’t want to pay for more education or health. It can’t_ pay for more, and is already making the best allocations that it is capable of making.

By definition, it must take from someone (roads? justice?) to add more to health and education. So big education changes aren’t going to happen any time soon and haven’t happened in 50 years.

I encourage everyone, including teachers, to make a little spreadsheet like I did and then engage with the government expense allocation problem to your own ability. You’ll immediately find that it is not a simple problem.

Society simply does not have the people, resources, money, or time to fund and implement all of the upscale, inflated visions of how good we can imagine our lives could or should be.

When the nurses or teachers go on strike because reality doesn’t fit their visions of how things could or should be, I feel for them. Striking against reality for 50 years with no meaningful results must be really frustrating.

Make the spreadsheet, wrestle with the overall allocation issue and feel reality for yourself.

 

K. Jameson

Vernon