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.

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Childcare advocate Sharon Gregson says “It's an attractive campaign promise but it lacks the planned and costed approach of the $10-a-day plan. For instance it oddly refers to free full time care for children under age three as ‘daycare’ but then for three and four-year-olds calls their care ‘early childhood education’ and only allocates 25 hours per week for them.” 

There’s nothing there — yet — about funding for new school construction (sorry Surrey, the Green Party just doesn’t seem that into you) or the seismic upgrade program, although a party staffer told me there is something still to come on that.

With zero chance of the Greens forming government, voters are unlikely to be too concerned about how they’d pay for their promises. What they’d be wise to be more concerned about, is the chance the Greens could hold the balance of power in the legislature if the NDP wins more seats but not a majority.

Be wary of the Greens holding the balance of power

I lived that struggle at the Vancouver school board (VSB) when Vision Vancouver won four seats the right-leaning Non-Partisan Assocation (NPA) won four and the Vancouver Greens won one.

Now a BCGP candidate in Vancouver-Langara, the Green trustee used her swing vote to elect two male NPA chairs in a row although later voted for Vision’s Mike Lombardi and the Vision trustees’ decision to refuse to approve a balanced budget with deep cuts to staffing and services.

The takeaway is that Greens are unpredictable and and a big gamble for those of us who care deeply about our public education system.

What’s missing

I read the platforms through my lens as a parent whose kids — now 21 and 23 — spent their school years caught in the crossfire of the B.C. Liberals’ war on the BCTF, along with the lowest education funding increases in the country. I’m also looking through the lens of an eight-year school trustee who spent six long years chairing the cash-strapped Vancouver School Board (VSB).

I was hoping for a few things I didn’t find, including a clear timeline and price tag for completing all outstanding seismic upgrades for B.C. public schools. The Liberals made seismic upgrade promises last time that they failed to keep. The BCNDP says they’ll get them done, but I’d like to know how soon and how much they’re budgeting for it. I’m still waiting to hear what, if any, promises Weaver's Greens have for seismic upgrades.

I was also looking for some focus on relationships. That may sound a little mushy for election platform talk, but the B.C. Liberals heavy-handed approach to dealing with education advocates, teachers, parent groups and school boards destroyed relationships.

It’s time a for a new, collaborative, respectful approach to rebuild the kind of trust and cooperation that’s needed to deliver the best services, programs and opportunities to ensure every student can succeed.  

The BCGP’s leader recent comments aren’t indicating there’s much hope there, but that’s an opportunity here for the BC NDP to let voters know they’ll be taking a different approach.

The Liberals are the only ones to mention private school funding and the NDP and Greens are silent, although Weaver’s comments about choice suggest he’s firmly in the Liberal camp here.

The NDP doesn’t want to stir up blocs of voters who support faith-based schools, but I’m hearing hints they may be open to taking another look at the public funding that goes to elite, exclusive, expensive private schools, although there’s nothing stated in their platform.

Who wins on education?

I can’t imagine anyone who cares about public schools and has paid an iota of attention to Clark’s record will find anything in the Liberal platform to change their mind. The Greens’ is interesting although seems incomplete so far, but Weaver and his antagonizing tweets are likely to make voters nervous about how he’d wield any influence he might hold in the legislature.

He comes across as condescending, cranky and cantankerous and his hostility toward critics and the BCTF don’t bode well for public schools if he gains the balance of power with a minority government.

That leaves the NDP. They’re playing it safe with broad statements and a few popular, costed items like fee-free adult education and school supplies. I’d be more excited to see commitment and details about operating budget funding and capital funding, but they’re by far the best bet for public education and a welcome chance to restore the fractured relationships left in Clark’s wake.

Election day is May 9. Vote wisely.







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