Prior to the May 14 election, the Advance asked Nelson-Creston candidates, How will you address the B.C. school districts’ funding shortfall?
Sjeng Derkx (Green Party): The challenge for our education system is to provide quality education for our students in a cost-effective manner. There clearly are problems with funding for education, but just throwing more money at it may not be the answer.
Governments and school boards need to work together to develop local community schools that integrate community centres, recreation facilities and libraries. School principals, teachers and parents need to have more direct say in their local schools.
Independent and alternative schools should be integrated into the public school system, without affecting their autonomy and objectives. Parents and students need a wide range of options for their diverse learning needs and want fair funding for all students.
User fees for basic school services should be prohibited. Corporate funding has no place in our schools. In the long term, public education should be free at every level.
Greg Garbula (Liberal Party): The BC Education Plan introduced by the Liberal government has been very positively received by the administrators of education in our region, due to the fact that education and educators are adapting to the changing environment of technology. Flexible learning and personalized programs allow the opportunity for students and teachers to provide individual education plans with greater efficiency and streamlined costs. With both students and teachers having the ability to adapt to the fast-paced and ever-changing technology improvements, they are allowing the students be the center of their education, with flexibility and choice on how they learn.
Although funding is static, the main issue of our region is not the funds but the declining enrolment. Having spoken to an administrator at one of our schools recently, they expect enrollment to be down another six per cent next year. The funding formula is based upon a per student amount that has been getting reduced overall by a reduced number of families with school-aged children having the ability to find employment in our region. The BC Jobs Plan is addressing the employment issues provincially; however, we will need to be working hard in our region to reverse the trend that we are encountering specifically to the higher than provincial unemployment rates in our riding, which is one of my main focuses if I am elected your representative.
Michelle Mungall (New Democratic Party): While elected school boards will continue to manage their budgets and be responsible to those who elected them, it is essential that the provincial government prioritize education in its budgets. The NDP has committed an additional $100 million into kindergarten-Grade 12 classrooms. This additional funding will be used to hire more teachers and teachers’ assistants, and improve special education.