The only way to resurrect our public schools, is the same way we attacked them – incrementally and with firm purpose. If there ever was a time when “just throwing money at the problem doesn’t work” is true, it’s now.
It’s like watering a parched lawn – you can’t just water it for 24 hours and expect the damage of a two month drought to be immediately reversed. It takes time and commitment & a constant reminder that we’re trying to overcome a decade and a half of cuts and cruelty to our schools, students,and teachers.
So; What do we do?
1) Increase funding incrementally, 2% above the cost of living each year for 10 years.Toss out “per pupil” funding and come up with an equitable formula which recognizes local needs like demographics,special needs, and remoteness.Vancouver may need less per capita for transportation than does Fort St. John. Howe Sound likely spends more money per capita on outdoor education than does Burnaby.
2) Increase hiring and maintenance budgets.
Lower the SER at least one student per class per year – province wide, to allow for smooth assimilation rather than keeping the status quo and adding frills because of difficult organization.
Hire more specialty teachers and learning assistants/ aides.
Increase maintenance budgets to reinstate programmes to make schools look less slovenly, unweeded and un-painted. Any Principal will tell you that a dilapidated school is one in which it’s hard to have pride and confidence.
3) Minimize the number of “strings” attached to funding
As budgets are increased, trust educators in the assignation of funds. Principals and teachers are professionals. You’d be amazed at what they can do. After all,they’ve made do with less each year ever since provincial bargaining was instituted in 1984 (NDP gov’t) They know more about running schools and helping kids learn than we do. Increase budgets generally,rather than targeting a million dollars for crossing guards in every school.
4) Raise Teacher salaries.
But while we’re not just “throwing money” at schools, it is time we gave teachers a significant raise. Teachers have been trading salary increases for working conditions & education funding for 30 years.
Whipsawing them using other gov’t settlements as a benchmark won’t do this time. We should use firefighters, police, civic workers,and other teachers salaries in Canada as comparative benchmarks,rather than non professional gov’t employees.
Competative teacher salaries will help mitigate the teacher shortage we’re in as well as express our support for and confidence in public school teachers.
5) Resurrect respect for teachers as professionals again.
When negotiating, call them “teachers” not the “BCTF”. It’s teachers with whom we’re negotiating, not what we’re eager to impune as an evil, undemocratic union. When we choose to heap scorn on the “BCTF”,we must also accept that we’re heaping scorn on good old Mrs MicGillicuddy and our child’s teacher(s). indeed all the teachers at your local school.
When our neighbours hysterically attack teachers as lazy, entitled, socialist brainwashers, we should do what John McCain once did – firmly say something like;
“No ma’am, they aren’t. They are honest professional people, working hard to help educate our children.”
The individual,developmental challenges we faced in school, or those faced by our own children shouldn’t be used to indict teachers in general.
Be sure that provincial curriculum is planned by teachers, not Ministry personnel, or
other non professional stakeholders.
Demand local accountability, not provincial. Make the FSA exams a periodic random sampling, to be used to inform system wide decision making and to remove them as tools used to rank schools/districts/ teachers/students.
6) Address private school funding.
Two tiered education promotes a class system in society and is something from which we staunchly defend public health care but are blasé about accepting in schooling our children.
Ending funding for private schools is political dynamite, but it’s the right thing to do.
Our schools are damaged. They need to be repaired, physically, educationally, and politically. It will take a long time, money, and a lot of political courage.
I’m not sure we have the commitment required.
I’m prepared for the Fraser Institute report on schools which will be used to help those who don’t know much about schools to conclude that our students aren’t doing any better since the new government’s funding and hiring ,being nice approach , so what was so bad about what’s happened in our schools?
It’ll take ten years at least, maybe fifteen, but if we did these six things , our schools could be repaired, our kids school experience would get better each year.