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Budget gets low marks on education

While today's budget had few details, Finance Minister Colin Hansen's comments on education drew rapid fire from B.C. teachers.

In a news release, B.C.Teachers' Federation Vice-President Susan Lambert warned that the budget will lead to more cuts.

"Once again, this government has brought forward a budget that will see school boards pressured to make dramatic cuts to BC's kids.

"School boards will be forced to pay for an increase in Medical Service Plan rates, the first since 2002, without receiving any extra funding to cover the costs. That will have a direct impact on classrooms.

... "The government's promise to implement all-day Kindergarten is also raising big red flags. There's no new funding this year to start planning, developing curriculum, or securing space. We could be looking at another broken promise and more disappointment a year from now.

"This budget doesn't even meet the needs of students today, let alone a year from now. There is no new funding to reduce class sizes or improve support for students with special needs. We already know that there will be 500–600 fewer teachers when classes resume next week. This budget will only make things worse for BC's kids."

At Policy Note, the blog of the B.C. office of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, Marc Lee and Iglika Ivanova concurred:

For K-12 education the picture is much worse [than health care], a cut of $31 million from February, and a whopping $3 million increase over 2008/09 (on a budget of $5.7 billion).

This is going to hurt and already school districts and schools across BC are implementing cuts to staff and increases in class size.

In an e-Alert on the B.C. School Trustees Association website, President Connie Denesiuk said:

"While it is good news that board allocations have not been reduced, we know that costs continue to rise, increasing financial pressure on boards. The loss of AFG funding and other discretionary grants will have a significant impact on boards and will affect staffing and programs."

The provincial government has posted a September Budget Update 2009 page on its website.

Crawford Kilian is a contributing editor of The Tyee.

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