Delta trustee calls on province to properly fund education

DELTA — A report on public education by a parliamentary committee meant for input into the 2015 provincial budget proves the system is chronically underfunded, according one of Delta’s newest trustees.

Recently elected trustee Bruce Reid said the Report on the Budget 2015 Consultations released in mid-November by the Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services draws attention for the need for stable, predictable and adequate funding going forward.

"Their findings are basically that education is underfunded and finance has to be put into education," said Reid in a phone interview. "(They had) concerns with things like the downloading of costs with regards to green fees and the increase in any type of negotiated settlement being put on the (school) boards. The boards just can’t function properly."

Reid is hopeful that the province will pay heed to the report, given that the conclusions are drawn from a bipartisan committee of legislative members. The committee was composed of Liberal MLAs Dan Ashton, Eric Foster, Simon Gibson, Scott Hamilton (Delta-North), Mike Morris and John Yap, along with NDP MLAs Carole James, George Heyman, Gary Holman and Jane Jae Kyung Shin.

The committee’s conclusion, drafted after six weeks of gathering information from 1,800 people around the province, shows that a well-funded public education system is a top priority for British Columbians.

According to the report "the evidence presented to the committee… indicates that increasing operating, maintenance and capital costs are exceeding current funding allotments."

It’s an important admission notes Reid, who said there should be a "needs budget" to go alongside the legal budget required by the provincial government to balance expenditures with the funding received.

During the recent five-week teacher’s strike members and supporters of the BC Teachers’ Federation called on the province to support funding for class size, composition and staffing ratios. Now that school is back in session, Hamilton said the government will address some of those concerns.

"It’s back to business but it’s not back to business as usual," said Hamilton over the phone from Victoria, who joined the committee for a second year in a row. "We have, as a government, committed to putting – at this stage now – our differences aside when it comes to all of the issues that were brought up during the strike."

He said the government will spend the next six years of labour peace to talk about the needs of children and student outcomes.

"We’ve had discussions with the BCTF, at certain levels, and I know the education minister has committed to continuing the channels of discussion," said Hamilton, adding a calm and rational approach is needed.

In addition to adequate funding, the report also recommends more supports for personalized learning, enhanced trades and technology training and more resources to identify and assist students with special needs.

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