BURNABY, B.C. — The Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) is questioning why the BC Liberal government chose a news-quiet Sunday to announce an increase in special needs funding to private and independent schools—something it never promised in the May 17 election.
“Why now?” asks Barry O’Neill, CUPE BC president. “The Liberals certainly didn’t campaign on the issue of increasing public funding to private and independent schools.”
O’Neill, like other public education stake holders, is concerned that the provincial government is bent on eroding the public school system however it can, while claiming to do just the opposite.
”Between 2002-03 and 2007-08, according to the Liberal government’s own documents, they are budgeting 34 percent more money for independent school funding but only 5.3 percent more for public schools. What does that tell us about the Liberal government’s priorities?” O’Neill asks.
Public schools throughout the province have been forced to reduce instructional days due to budget shortfalls based on student enrolment figures. Meanwhile, private and independent schools have maintained the five-day school week and the traditional school year with exceptionally low .
“It would seem that private and independent schools are being rewarded for their efforts by receiving more money to fund areas they’ve actually been weak in, namely, special education,” said O’Neill.
CUPE BC is on record as not opposing private and independent schools, only the use of public funds in support of non-public schools.
“While public school students are being forced into larger and larger classrooms with fewer supports, public money is being used to provide special programs and smaller classrooms for the already privileged,” said O’Neill, adding that the process of increasing public grants to private schools is one more nail in the coffin for public education in B.C.
CUPE BC president