The education funding challenge

Councillors Byron Stewart, Larry Evans, and Gord Klassen alongside Mayor of Fort St. John, Lori Ackerman, and Chair of School District 60's Board of Trustees, Ida Campbell. Photo by Montana Cumming

FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. – A fiscal policy analyst with the left wing Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives is challenging the provincial government claim that education funding in BC is at “record levels”

In a new analysis entitled, “What’s the Real Story behind B-C’s Education Funding Crisis,” Alex Hemingway says education funding, as a share of BC’s economy has in fact dropped by 25% since 2001, the year the Liberals began what is now a decade and a half as the governing party of the province.

He notes education funding is projected in this year’s budget, as 2.5% of GDP, and he says that’s down from 3.3% fifteen years ago.

Mr. Hemingway adds the government says, this is about declining student enrolment, but he argues, that’s a red herring, since the funding crunch has hit school districts like Peace River North with growing enrolments, as well as those seeing declines.

He says the government numbers are misleading, because they don’t take into account inflation or cost pressures from higher Hydro and MSP rates, and he adds.

Mr. Hemingway contends BC now has the second lowest level of education funding in the country, and claims it’s nearly $1000 per student below the national average.

He says, “Underfunding is a political choice, and if we dedicated the same share of our economy to public education today, as we did fifteen years ago, we’d have nearly another two billion dollars.”

He also says, “That much additional funding might go beyond what’s necessary, but it tells us what’s possible and we certainly wouldn’t be facing schools closures, overcrowded classrooms, or cuts to vital programs.”