Today I have the honour of speaking at a rally for public education (video below).
More than a thousand teachers and parents rallied at the Legislature on September 2nd calling on the BC Government and the BC Teachers Federation to get the deal done and start the school year. This was meant to be a day where teachers were greeting their new classes and preparing for a complete academic year, but with a squandered summer and no signs of bargaining in the near future, schools remain closed.
Speech at the Legislature Rally
The level of funding allocated to our public education system depends on the priorities of the government. Spending on health care has remained a priority since 2000, ranging between 7 and 8% of provincial GDP. Education funding as a percentage of the provincial GDP has declined from a high of about 6.4% in 2001-2002 to an estimated low of about 5.0% in 2014-2015 (a decline of about 22%). If British Columbians deem education to be as important as I do, surely this drop needs to be rectified.
In terms of student achievement, our public education system ranks as one of the best worldwide. Every three years the Programme for International Student Assessment evaluates the performance of students internationally in three subject areas: mathematics, science and reading. The Council of Ministers of Education, Canada further breaks down the Canadian results on a province-by-province basis. British Columbia consistently performs extremely well. In 2012, for example, British Columbia was the top Canadian province in reading and science and was second only to Quebec in mathematics. In fact, British Columbia students even performed better than students from the much touted education system in Finland in reading and mathematics. While Finland scored slightly ahead of BC in science, the difference was statistically insignificant.
The success of our students is due, in large part, to the quality, professionalism and dedication of our school teachers, administrators and support staff.
Without a labour deal that addresses the main concerns of teachers, who battle daily to support their students, we risk losing not only a substantial portion of this school year but also the exceptional standard of education that we have come to be so proud of.
It is time to once again make education a priority in British Columbia.