I sent the following media release today after watching the Premier's address last night:
Premier Gordon Campbell provided nothing more than empty promises during last night’s televised speech to British Columbians. His claim that every grade 4 student would be meeting or exceeding grade 4 reading, writing and math skills rang hollow. He gave no indication on how this would be achieved.
“An underfunded twenty-first century school system is no better than an underfunded twentieth century school system”, comments Greater Victoria Teachers’ Association president Tara Ehrcke. “Nowhere in Campbell’s address does he talk about how school boards, facing multi-million dollar shortfalls year after year, are supposed to provide supports and services to meet these goals.”
The Greater Victoria Board of Education faced a significant shortfall last year despite the extra funds from previous school closures. For two years, the Victoria Board has submitted a “needs budget” along with the actual budget to indicate that the needs of the District are far greater than what the provincial funding is able to support.
Just last month, the Board again approved a class configuration with almost 300 classes exceeding the limits in the School Act. One concerned teacher, Colleen Pommelet, spoke to the Board about how difficult it is to meet the wide range of ability levels in a single class. She pointed out that she was in fact teaching 17 different curricula to try to meet the diverse needs of her students.
Another teacher, Judi Chessa, spoke about the challenge of meeting needs in classes with large numbers of students who have individual education plans. She told the Board “I am sending out an SOS” because she felt she would be unable to sustain the workload.
Since the Liberals were elected, one in ten schools in British Columbia has closed, including seven in Greater Victoria. Boards are using revenues from closed schools to make up for the lack of funding from the province. Nothing in the Premier’s speech provided any hope that this disturbing trend will not continue.