Vancouver parents call for independent inquiry, long-term plan, for public education
In response to the Special Advisor's Report, a group of more than 200 parents representing 80% of the schools across Vancouver, Vancouver Parents for Public Education (VPPE), are requesting the Auditor General conduct an independent inquiry into whether or not the current provincial funding formula covers the actual costs of the Vancouver Board of Education.
“It's ridiculous that politicians are playing games with children’s futures without knowing what it will take to properly fund public education” says Shoni Field, a VPPE spokesperson. “An independent inquiry from the Auditor General would allow everybody to start making informed decisions.”
Field, who has a son in Grade 1 at Nutka Elementary School, said cutbacks in special education and English as a second language funding will deteriorate the quality of education for all children in the system. In an interview with the Vancouver Observer earlier this week, she said that most of the parents in VPPE "have never been involved in anything political before.
"We were very careful to make sure the group is multi-partisan. Most parents are reluctant advocates. They'd get dragged into this for no one other than their children.
"Public education is a core priority," Field said.
“The scope of the Special Advisor’s report did not include consideration of delivering quality public education,” added Ken Saraf, another VPPE spokesperson. “This week we surveyed Vancouver parents concerned about education and they were overwhelmingly in support of an inquiry by the Auditor General.”
The survey of parents also found that the vast majority supports the following statements:
- That the Vancouver Board of Education trustees were elected on the basis of their promise to advocate for public education and are accountable to Vancouver voters to do so.
- That the Ministry of Education implement the Special Advisor's recommendation to develop a long-term plan, enabling school districts to develop their own long-term plans.
- That parents are concerned that the Special Advisor’s recommendations represent an offloading of costs to parents, and may significantly decrease the spaces for safe, affordable, licensed childcare and after school care that are available to Vancouver families.
- That the Vancouver Board of Education's support of Pre Kindergarten programs and amateur athletics are evidence of their long-term vision. Given that they support goals also identified by the provincial government, it would be shortsighted, and potentially more costly in the long-term, to cancel or make them cost prohibitive.
In addition, a recent Angus Reid Poll found eighty-one percent of British Columbians felt that the provincial government should do more to protect public education. Seventy-nine percent said that the provincial government should increase funding to public schools. Despite this, the percentage of the provincial budget spent on public education has been steadily declining over the past decade. If BC were a country we would rank 101 of 132 in UNESCO's list of country's education investment as a percentage of GDP, coming in just below the Republic of the Congo.
Vancouver Parents for Public Education back one of the Comptroller General’s recommendations: “We want the Provincial Government to clearly communicate their long term intentions regarding public education,” says Field. “Reading between the lines has left parents very scared. We need to hear a clearly articulated and detailed plan for Public Education from the Provincial Government.“