This weeks column from 24Hrs Vancouver: Focus on labour peace ignores underfunding

Who wins this week? Columnists Laila Yuile and Kathryn Marshall battle over the issues of the day.

This week’s topic:

Does Christy Clark’s 10-year education plan address the real issues in education?

Politicians who use children in photo-ops always come across as incredibly insincere. And seeing Premier Christy Clark this week in a classroom full of children waxing concern over non-interrupted education? Well, it was too much for my stomach. Turn the channel.

The irony is not lost on anyone old enough to remember Clark was the education minister behind Bills 27 and 28. These legislative changes were drafted so poorly and were so inherently flawed that nearly a decade later the trickle-down impact is still hampering every child’s ability to learn in the public school system…

Clark seems to think the only thing hampering education is labour strife with teachers. In her promotional video for the new 10-year education proposal, she states: “We owe this to our children. Their learning shouldn’t be compromised by the inability of adults to reach agreements.” And I agree — children shouldn’t be held hostage by any agenda, whether labour-driven or politically motivated.

Read Kathryn Marshall’s column.

However, when you look at Clark’s prior record as education minister, most of the issues that children, teachers and parents are dealing with in B.C. are the direct result of years of chronic underfunding to both programs and facilities. Changes in funding models and designations during her tenure nearly 10 years ago resulted in targeted, drastic cuts to special-needs funding that left teachers, students and parents foundering in the system. And again, it’s the children who suffer as a result.

I don’t see anything in this proposed 10-year framework that deals with any of it.

There is nothing to deal with a special-needs child who requires assistance all day at school, but receives it for only four hours a day because that is what the guidelines allow. Yes, Christy, you did that. There is nothing to prevent one teacher from having four or five kids with what the system calls Individual Education Plans in the same classroom without assistance. That’s what many teachers are fighting to change — class size and composition. Yes, Christy, you did that too. And despite what the politicians would have you believe, those things have a bigger impact on every child’s ability to learn in a classroom setting than a labour disruption.

It’s likely going to take a 10-year plan to restore the educational components and funding Clark stripped a decade ago. But this plan tells me she hasn’t learned a thing since the last time she sat in government.