Axed by Christy Clark: Patti Bacchus's account of the final hours of Vancouver's school board
An insider shares the dramatic story of how Premier Christy Clark fired the Vancouver School Board and took over the management of its public schools.
Here’s what happened.
Bear in mind Vancouver taxpayers submitted enough in school tax levies alone to fund the the shortfall — and that doesn’t even begin to factor in the massive government windfall from property purchases taxes that have bumped up the provincial surplus. These cuts didn’t need to happen at all.
Housing affordability and high day care costs have all been factors in the decline of school age children in Vancouver.
That, combined with continued operating budget pressures and a projected 2017/18 shortfall of $15 million, led VSB staff to recommend the board consider closing 12 schools, including two secondary schools: Britannia and Gladstone. All but one of the 12 schools was in East Vancouver.
Staff were having trouble creating timetables for students who’d arrived over the summer as they had to pack more kids into fewer classes due to the funding cuts.
The gym was packed with parents and students, several in tears. I voted very reluctantly to continue with the consultation process on the closures.
What they really meant was more choice for parents who had the resources to access choice - like the ability to drive their kids across town to a more affluent neighbourhood to attend a school with a higher ranking from the right-wing Fraser Institute.
Who issued that order?
It felt like a coup. But who was behind it?
At 11 am Monday, October 17, 2016 Bernier held a news conference and said he was dismissing the elected school board and replacing us with an appointed Trustee, Diane Turner. We never got to vote on the budget reconsideration.
So what happens now?
Clark is known for her glee at stoking BC's urban/rural divide.
What happens now?
Watch for VSB land sales.
Bernier already set the stage for this with a June letter to the VSB exempting the Kingsgate Mall site (owned by the VSB and leased to the Beedie Group) from section 100 of the BC School Act that says proceeds from capital asset sales can only be used for capital — not for operating costs.
This all seems to be heading in one direction — increased privatization of K-12 education in BC.
Watch for even more public funding and education and tax policy changes to benefit private schools while public schools grapple with crumbling infrastructure and insufficient operating funding.
The BC Liberals have been working for years to undermine public confidence in what is actually one of the world’s best public school systems.
They’ve eroded it through underfunding and destabilized it through bitter battles with the BCTF (their long-running court battle still to be heard in the Supreme Court of Canada). Cabinet documents included in the original BC Supreme Court Case even documented their discussion of provoking a strike to frustrate and inconvenience parents.
If the Liberals win the May election, the appointed trustee will be there until at least November 2018, the next municipal election date.
Will there even be school board elections in 2018?
That’s a question all of BC should be asking.