NDP education platform is the best of an uninspiring bunch

BC Green Party leader Andrew Weaver lashed out at teachers and critics over the weekend on twitter after reports of testy meetings with teachers and the B.C. Federation of Labour.

(Page 2 of 3)

The platforms

I managed to tear myself away from twitter to go through the education platforms. I have to agree with Tyee education writer Crawford Killian’s assessment that for the most part they lack vision or much to get excited about.  

He’s right that “Returned to power, Clark would likely carry on the 16-year Liberal war against the BC Teachers’ Federation. With no real reason to change the current funding formula, she could carry on imposing more external costs on the public schools’ fixed budgets — higher heating and fuel costs, for example.”

I’d hoped for something bolder or specific in the education platforms — or in at least one of them — that could inspire parents to feel confident the public school system will be able to provide their kids with the opportunities and supports they need to succeed. While none of them deliver that, the BC NDP’s platform and its bold move regarding $10-a-day childcare comes close enough to cement it as my choice.

Liberals - pretty much a standpat platform on education

Described overall as a “standpat platform,” the Liberals’ education portion promises to review the education funding formula but is clear it won’t stop funding private schools. It pledges $2 billion in capital funding and says it will complete the seismic upgrade program — at some unidentified point in time. A small surprise is its low-key promise of “publicly funded playgrounds” for elementary schools.  

Given Clark’s record on the education file, few voters who rank public education as a ballot box issue will be swayed by this so-so platform.

BC NDP platform hits the best notes but thin on specifics.

Starting with a promise to “properly fund classrooms and school equipment,” the NDP’s platform says it’ll replace portables with real classrooms (a not-so-subtle shout out to Surrey voters) and make schools earthquake safe, albeit also by some undefined point in time.

After taking some well-earned swipes at Clark and the Liberals — “We don’t need the Supreme Court to tell us to fund education properly” — the NDP platform says they’ll “provide stability in the classroom, ensuring all kids have the time and attention they need to do their absolute best.”

They say parents won’t have to fundraise anymore and they’ll create a capital fund for school playgrounds.

Like the Liberals and Greens, the NDP is also promising a review of the education funding formula, arguing Clark’s per-student funding model doesn’t work for B.C.

A welcome difference is an annual $7 million to make high-school courses fee free for all adults, which they were until 2014 when the Liberals stopped funding upgrade courses for students who’d graduated without the credits or marks they needed to get into post-secondary programs. This is important and I wrote about it recently.

Unfortunately absent is a specific, costed commitment to increase school board operating grants to bring B.C. up from near the bottom of the national average or a dollar amount and timeline for completing seismic upgrades.

While it’s not a K-12 platform item, the NDP gets high marks for its commitment to the $10 a day childcare plan.

Access to quality, affordable childcare will have a major impact on public education as vulnerable children will be more likely to arrive at kindergarten better prepared to succeed and families will have reduced financial stress — both likely to improve education outcomes for their kids.

The Greens and their cantankerous leader

Aside from a testy, tweeting leader who appears to have a built-in beef with teachers and their union, the BCGP education platform includes some ambitious big numbers for increasing education funding —$250 million for 2017/18 up to $1.46 billion for 2020/21, plus $10 million for adult education (high-school) courses. They’re also promising $35 million for food and activity programs and also plan to review the overall funding formula.

In addition to promising free pre-school for three and four year-olds, the Greens are offering “free daycare for children up to age three with working parents and up to $500/month for families with a stay-at-home parent and a child up to age two.”

Speak up about this article on Facebook or Twitter. Do this by liking Vancouver Observer on Facebook or following us @Vanobserver on Twitter. We'd love to hear from you.