by Andrew Fleming
NDP leader John Horgan was in Surrey on Friday (Oct. 14) pointing the finger at the BC Liberal government for failing to build new schools to meet overcrowding problems throughout the province’s fastest-growing city, and said the privatization of public schools is not the solution.
“I understand the desperation that local government and parents feel in the face of Christy Clark government’s neglect, and I want parents to know that it doesn’t have to be this way,” said Horgan at a press conference inside Surrey-Green Timbers NDP MLA Sue Hammell’s office on King George Boulevard. “Christy Clark and her government created this overcrowding crisis by neglecting to plan and build for growth, and its Surrey kids who are paying the price for that neglect.”
The City of Surrey is considering a Public-Private Partnership (P3) to build schools to help alleviate the growing enrolment pressure in public schools. Earlier this month, the city’s general manager of planning and development, Jean Lamontagne, presented a report to council outlining capital funding possibilities to meet the growing demand for classrooms with an estimated 1,000 new students entering the system each year. Lamontagne also suggested Mayor Linda Hepner contact education minister Mike Bernier to consider new funding options in Surrey.
Both the Surrey Board of Education and Surrey Teachers’ Association have voiced opposition to P3s being used as an option to pay for public education.
Horgan said privatization of public school construction has been abandoned as a solution in other provinces and countries because it costs taxpayers more than public construction and ownership of schools.
“With privatization, it’s buy now, pay later. But, just like a car lease or high-interest financing for new furniture, it costs us more in the long run. That is no way to run a public education system. What Surrey needs is stable, adequate funding for public education, and I’m committed to doing exactly that.”
The B.C. Liberals announced the creation of 2,700 new classroom spaces in Surrey earlier this year. The Surrey School District has approximately 71,000 students this year, around a thousand more than last year’s total, and there are nearly 275 portables being used as classrooms.
The next provincial election is May 9, 2017.