The Government of British Columbia has been gathering input from the public as part of the 2013 budget consultation, with Joanna Larson, president of the Prince Rupert and District Teachers Union, being one of many British Columbians to make suggestions.
“As teachers, each day we imagine a better future for our students. We put enormous energy into cultivating the hearts, minds, and imaginations of our students. We need our government to make this commitment too, for all students in British Columbia,” Larson wrote on behalf of PRDTU.
The first piece of input Larson included was calling on the government to increase the student-educator ratio in BC. Larson says there are 14 students per educator on average in Canadian classrooms, but in BC that number increases to as high as 17.7.
“For BC to recover lost ground, and at a minimum meet the Canadian average student/educator ratio, we need 5, 800 more full time equivalent teachers at a cost of about $500 million. For BC to meet the Canadian average in terms of K-12 funding as a percentage of GDP we need an additional $609 million.”
“Does this government have the ability to put an additional $1.109 billion into BC’s public schools? Absolutely, and we are calling on government to begin doing just that,” Larson said.
Next, Larson called on the government to create fair taxation.
“Today, the richest households in British Columbia pay the lowest overall tax rate. Students pay more in tuition than is collected in corporate taxes, and British Columbians pay more in MSP premiums than businesses contribute through provincial corporate income tax. This is not a fair taxation plan,” Larson said.
Larson says funding from the government going toward Independent or private schools should be redirected into public schools, so all students regardless of economic status have access to quality education.
Another suggestion Larson made was to support the Coalition of Childcare Advocates of BC’s Early Care and Learning System proposal.
“It is estimated that the Early Care and Learning proposal would cost $1.5 billion annually to fully implement for children under the age of six. The proposal is expensive, but we are in a position in our province where it may be more expensive not to implement such a strategy,” Larson wrote.
PRDTU says there are many overlapping benefits to investing in public education and early learning and care.
“It would allow greater numbers of parents to stay in the workforce, primarily women who are still disproportionately the ones who stop working outside the home, or reduce hours to care for children. Families would become more stable economically, and therefore would be contributing more money into the economy. Rates of absenteeism would go down, and there would be health cost savings as a result of improved work/life balance,” Larson wrote.
The Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services is an all party committee of The Legislative Assembly. The committee is holding province-wide consultations in September and October seeking views of British Columbians.