Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Manufacturing a crises in education Welcome back to all my teacher friends

I found this wonderful post by someone named Dawn Steele in the blog Public Eye online  in response to a document that was posted on this site that discusses how senior government managers should create fake crises to bring about change.

I don't know about railways or healthcare, but the strategy of manufacturing a fake crisis has certainly been evident in Education.

The province keeps telling us they're spending more on Education than ever despite declining enrolment & that costs are out of control. A Special Adviser was appointed, prompting hysterical headlines about VSB mismanagement, until weeks later the Minister quietly accepted the VSB's claim of $17 million in provincial underfunding was actually legit. A week ago, the Minister hinted again at a need for drastic change because student outcomes are flat or declining.

I've been gathering research & data on education funding at the BC Education Coalition Website:

The data (including the Ministry's own data) don't support a crisis of out-of-control spending - on the contrary they suggest underfunding is increasingly straining the ability of public schools to meet even basic student needs:

1) In real dollars, the $5.1 billion Education budget for 2010-11 is actually $500 million less than the last NDP Education budget in 2000-01, after adjusting for inflation (that stat originally cited by the Vancouver Sun's Don Cayo & I fact-checked it).

2) In 1991, Education represented 26% of the provincial budget vs 14% today.

3) Relative to provincial GDP, BC's Education spending has declined by 14% since 2001.

4) After a decade of VERY modest declines (avg 0.5% per year), K-12 public school enrolment is now growing again. And provincial projections call for continued growth as far out as they look.

5) BC now has the second-highest student/educator ratio (a Stats Can proxy for average class size) in all of Canada.

6) BC has cut special education grants to public schools by $120 million since 2001, while the number of students with special needs has increased. Despite deep cuts, boards now face $350 million a year in unfunded special ed costs - a gap that's grown from $50 million in 2001-02.
7) Ontario spends $10,000 per student vs BC's $8,000. McGuinty has increased Education spending by more than $5 billion (more than BC spends in all) since taking office, because they see a highly-educated populace as a key pillar to building future competitiveness and prosperity. Our Education Minister talks about our schools needing to offer more opportunities in the culinary arts and house-building.

Meanwhile, to find evidence of out-of-control spending, there is no need to manufacture fake crises - just look at the capital side of the BC budget, which most pundits routinely ignore. Or the extra $6 billion that former Finance Minister Carole Taylor paid to buy labour peace for the Olympics. Or the MLA, Minister & mandarin pay hikes...

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