Independent media needs you. Join the Tyee.


The Hook: Political news, freshly caught

BC Education Coalition rebuts Comptroller General’s report

A blog called B.C. Education Coalition has published a detailed rebuttal of the Comptroller General’s report on the Vancouver School Board.

The response, written by Dawn Steele, asserts:

From the outset, there was concern about the usefulness of a special enquiry that singled out Vancouver, when all BC districts are struggling with budget challenges. The terms of reference also excluded any consideration of the adequacy of provincial funding vs. provincially-imposed costs, which districts say is the primary cause of the budget challenges. But no one believes the VSB is perfect and most felt an objective report could only help students by identify some VSB errors while urging the province to address the remaining gap to avert deep cuts to core services.

So it’s deeply disturbing that after spending thousands of scarce Education dollars, nowhere does the Special Adviser’s 94-page report examine the impacts on students and their educational achievement of Vancouver’s planned $16 million in cuts for next year. Instead of advice on averting those cuts, it assumes most should proceed and suggests further “savings” via new fees and more cuts.

Vancouver is not alone. Most BC boards face the same challenges, but the report offers them no help, except to close more schools, charge more fees, or demand union “concessions” to offset the Province’s failure to fund the concessions it gave unions in the first place.

After arguing that the VSB was already implementing many of the Comptroller General’s suggestions, the response goes on to say:

How to attract students in a deteriorating fiscal environment is central to the challenge facing BC public schools and the Special Adviser acknowledges that declining enrolment poses budget challenges. What she fails to note is that maintaining quality educational programs is critical to VSB’s ability to compete with private schools. Deep cuts for 2010 will threaten Vancouver’s ability to attract more students so that it can run schools cost effectively and may hasten further enrolment losses. The report proposes even deeper cuts, while exhorting Vancouver to attract more students. This advice will hasten the vicious cycle that’s already eating away at districts like North Van.

...Vancouver now faces the loss of all/most programs already on the chopping block for 2010-11, including elementary band, special education, supports for Aboriginal, immigrant and ESL students, and programs that support the achievement of at-risk and inner city kids. The report could pressure the VSB to inflict even deeper cuts. It does not avert any cuts and will make it even harder to attract and retain enrolment so that Vancouver’s public schools can run cost effectively.

The Comptroller General has endorsed the Minister’s view that the appropriate role of elected trustees is to implement school budget cuts without complaint and without raising concerns about impacts on student achievement. This resolves nothing since it’s a matter for voters to decide.

Put in the unenviable position of doing the Minister’s “dirty work” by cutting student services to offset unfunded provincial costs, the report casts the VSB (and by implication other boards in the same boat) as architects of their own misfortune. It is an absurd conclusion, implying an astonishing critical failure of competence has simultaneously infected school board across the continent this year!

The blog also offers links to the Comptroller General’s report and recent news reports, and promises to post the VSB response when it is published. Late Saturday evening, the VSB website had not yet posted that response.

Crawford Kilian is a contributing editor of The Tyee.

Find more in:

What have we missed? What do you think? We want to know. Comment below. Keep in mind:


  • Verify facts, debunk rumours
  • Add context and background
  • Spot typos and logical fallacies
  • Highlight reporting blind spots
  • Ignore trolls
  • Treat all with respect and curiosity
  • Connect with each other

Do not:

  • Use sexist, classist, racist or homophobic language
  • Libel or defame
  • Bully or troll
  • Troll patrol. Instead, flag suspect activity.
comments powered by Disqus