Shrinking schools, broke parents: We can't afford to grow up in Vancouver
Vancouver families crushed between housing prices and child care costs.
Vancouver schools are shrinking
Each year for the past three years, Vancouver has been losing the equivalent of two schools.
Below you'll find a Vancouver School Board internal memorandum enumerating the inflow and outflow of students as families move to and away from Vancouver.
The average size of a Vancouver school is roughly three hundred students. In the 2009-2010, 2010-2011, and 2011-2012 school years, the district lost 678, 697, and 629 students respectively.
Tracey Sherlock at the Vancouver Sun reports that the primary reason for student withdrawal was the high cost of housing. Basically, staying in Vancouver has grown too expensive for hundreds and hundreds of families.
Parents are opting to move to the suburbs, or out of the Greater Vancouver Area entirely. Vancouver's schools may be good, but unless the Xavier School for Gifted Youngsters is now located in Kitsilano, there's a point at which reality must be respected and a family must move in order to stay solvent.
While Vancouver's real-estate development boom is good for City Hall in terms of taxes and fees collected, it's terrible news for the city's schools. As the school system hemorrhages students, so too does it lose provincial funding.
While the student body and its associated funding shrink, the core expenditures associated with running a school do not: the lights must still stay on, the building must still be maintained, faculty and staff must still be paid.
Pre-school, pro-hibitively expensive
Of course, if you think maintaining an abode large enough for you and your school-age offspring is tough, try doing so while raising a toddler. Housing costs are not the only factor downgrading Vancouver's livability for families. Child care costs are also frighteningly high, and parents must deal with child care for years before their kids can enter the school system.
Unless a parent is able to stay at home, sending the little ones to daycare will be as expensive as renting an apartment. A friend of mine, graphic designer by trade, is faced with $900 monthly daycare costs for his three-year-old. His new daughter's care whilst he and his wife are working will come to $1300 per month... and that's with a government subsidy. So, $2100 per month to take care of two kids: at what point does it make more sense for one partner to stay home?
What, then, does that do to the stay-at-home partner's own career, and thus prospects for the family's future? What if there's only one parent?
(Before you suggest working from home, keep in mind that "work from home" and "look after an infant or toddler" are mutually exclusive concepts if your job requires any sort of measurable productivity.)
Child care costs are the #1 cause of poverty among Vancouver's single moms, and the existing subsidy program does not help. According to Sharon Gregson of the Coalition of Child Care Advocates of BC, if you are poor enough to qualify for low-income childcare subsidy, you're also too poor to afford the rest of the fee.
Gregson told me, "The cost of raising children has skyrocketed. It's gone from bad to worse to crisis." The crisis Gregson is talking about affects low-income families the most, obviously, but we recently saw that Vancouverites in general are slipping down the economic ladder.