Low Hanging Fruit Actually High Handed Decision Making
The B.C government is really pushing the anti education envelope in it’s recently announced three year school budget plan.
They call their latest demand for cuts to school administration “low hanging fruit”; you know, the kind that’s hanging over the fence and easily picked.
What the tortured and inapt metaphor ignores however is that the education tree has not only been picked clean years ago ,we’ve devoured the windfalls, and already committed future crops to fill historic crop shortages.
It’s not about low hanging fruit, it’s about pressing percieved advantage and kicking public education while it’s down. It’s about control, centralization, and privatization, and chopping down the public education tree out of long standing political spite and petulance.
2002 Minister of Education Christy Clark’s stripping of contract provisions for class size and composition declared her determination to regain control of education in B.C., control the Liberal Government perceived as slipping away to teachers. Fourteen years later, she’s still fighting that battle.
In 2002, blowback, both political and judicial, was significant, and the Liberal government had to draw in it’s claws for a while. It’s important to note however, that this battle for control of education still underpins government decision-making in B.C.
Whether personal or political, Christy Clark has shown an almost obsessive animus toward teachers and public education.
Since the big stink in 2002, the Liberal government has been satisfied to annually poke public education in the eye, with small annual per pupil funding increases which were more than consumed by inflationary hard costs. (Hydro rates, M.S.P increases, unfunded salary settlements, carbon offsets, special needs and other downloaded costs.)
It’s been a simple and effective strategy. Each year, they cite education as a priority in a family first agenda, and each year they muse confusedly about why school districts can’t manage within the annual per pupil increases they supply.
Until now, the media and the public have generally bought the government’s strategy.
While the underfunding data are there and are the real unpicked low hanging fruit, it takes a while to get that while districts lose $8,000.00 plus for every student lost, they don’t accrue anywhere near $8,000.00 in reduced costs. (A school still has to light and heat classrooms as it loses $24,000 for the three students who left the school).
So we’ve had fourteen years of budget increases that equate to cuts.
But few, except for educators, complain. We’ve become blasé about cuts – how bad could they be if there’s a nominal funding increase each year?
In the face of increased griping by the education community, much of the public has become immune to the plight of public schools.
Media support can only be described as tepid. Instead, the media has been satisfied with a “pox on both their houses” stance, merely repeating and rewriting each other’s anecdotal indictments. The only stories with legs are the ones which involve union overreach.
No young Woodward and Bernsteins are being tasked with uncovering the real problems of education underfunding in B.C.
For a tired, bombarded public,problems in school funding must be a result of local district incompetence or teachers getting paid too much, or a horrible, militant union.
So the fourteen year death by a thousand cuts funding strategy has been accepted by many British Columbians as prudent and frugal, after all “throwing money at the problem won’t help…”
But this year, after so many years of surgically nipping at the edges of education, buoyed by public frustration and teacher battle fatigue, the government launched a new offensive in its relentless battle to show who’s boss in education.
“ I’ll bet we could sell cutting millions more from public education if we pulled a switcheroo and cut bloated administration costs. Everyone hates high paid administrators, even teachers. Some say we’ve been hard on teachers, this way we’ll appear frugal and fair.”
“ And the most diabolical thing” said this hypothetical brainstormer, ” is that we could more than recoup the pittance we had to give teachers to settle the strike, which would make the strike seem even more futile and at the same time, send a strong message about who’s in charge of education in this province.”
This, admittedly hypothetical reconstruction is the only possible explanation for the government’s move into overt attack mode instead of being satisfied with merely delivering education the annual stiff poke in the eye.
To those who don’t know, “administration” isn’t just highly paid superintendents and Principals. Secretaries, curriculum experts, and other personel qualify too.
The cuts have already been made – for years. To satisfy this latest Sheriff of Nottingham money grab, school districts won’t just be cutting martini swilling excess from places that seldom see kids. They’ll be cutting services to classrooms and kids, to meet the number, the same thing they’ve been doing for fourteen years.
What the Government calls low hanging fruit, is actually more high handed decision making- an acceleration of their almost inexplicable vendetta against public schools.