The “GreenDP” is great news for public education

VO Contributing Education Editor Patti Bacchus on why the NDP and Green party power-sharing agreement is a best-case scenario for B.C.’s public schools

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While I’ve made no secret of my support for the NDP, I’ve also grumbled that they need to be bolder when it comes to education. They had to tread cautiously knowing the Liberals would attack them on spending promises and their platform commitments faced far more scrutiny than the Greens did. The power-sharing agreement can now give them a chance to make some bold moves and invest generously in public education and other public services.

With the Greens and NDP now agreeing to work together, we have a commitment to properly fund classrooms and resources and invest in much-needed capital programs. The future hasn’t looked this bright for B.C. students in an awfully long time.

Both parties also promised to restore funding for fee-free high-school courses for all adults. In 2014, the Liberals abruptly stopped funding upgrade courses for students who’d graduated without the credits or marks they needed to get into post-secondary programs.

This is important and I wrote about it recently. This will enable thousands of adults to get the courses they need to move into post-secondary programs that will qualify them for higher-paying jobs. That’s the way to build a strong economy.

For the little ones, the Greens not only promised free pre-school for three and four-year-olds, they pledged “free daycare for children up to age three with working parents and up to $500/month for families with a stay-at-home parent and a child up to age two.” That bodes well alongside the NDP’s promise to phase-in a the $10-a-day childcare plan.

Access to quality, affordable childcare will have a major impact on public education as vulnerable children will be more likely to arrive at kindergarten better prepared to succeed and families will have reduced financial stress — both likely to improve education outcomes for their kids.

In Vancouver, I’m hoping the appointed-trustee-led board moves quickly to cancel its plan to close its Main Street adult education centre (which is now located at Gladstone Secondary). That decision was part of the Vancouver School Board’s (VSB) 2017/18 operating budget plan.

Adult education enrolment has been dropping following the Liberal’s funding cut, but will increase now when all courses are fully funded. The VSB renovated that space for adult education a few years ago and it will be needed again. It needs to stay open.

It will be interesting to see how the new government builds a relationship with the education partner groups — school boards, the B.C. Teachers’ Federation, support staff unions and parent groups. The relationships have been strained and dysfunctional for so long it’s hard to believe we could be entering an area of respectful collaboration with a focus on what’s best for students. How incredibly refreshing.

What it means for Vancouver

After the VSB’s elected board was fired by the B.C. Liberals for refusing to pass a budget with more cuts last year, John Horgan joined a rally at the VSB in support of the fired trustees and promised to reinstate them if he was elected.

Andrew Weaver spoke in the legislature in favour of a by-election. That means that one way or another — reinstatement by appointment or through a by-election — Vancouver voters will once again have an elected school board.

Reinstatement by appointing the former elected board back to office would be quick and cheap, compared with a by-election, but that assumes all the former trustees are willing to come back. I don’t know if they are or not.

A by-election, on the other hand, provides an opportunity for one party to get a majority, but will take longer and could be expensive, particularly given that the board would only be in office for about a year before the next scheduled school board and municipal elections in October 2018. I’d be happy with either and would love a shot at a majority, but I could live with the less-expensive reinstatement.  

I expect there will be some bumps along the road and there won’t always be agreement about how to move forward.  But wow, it will be wonderful to have a fresh start after so many damaging and toxic years of B.C. Liberal rule of the education system.

The ministry of education will need a major overhaul to reflect a new government. It struck me as highly politicized and at times pretty nasty with too much focus on politics and not enough on education. Imagine having a ministry that works to support the work of school boards instead of constantly undermining them.

It’s a hope-filled and exciting time for public education.






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