Hollie Williams is blaming the B.C. Liberal government for the erosion of adult education in the province.
As a teacher, Williams has witnessed how underfunding and budget cutbacks have hurt a system that was meant to help adults improve their chances in life.
“The Liberal government has basically abandoned adult learners across British Columbia,” Williams told the Georgia Straight in a phone interview.
In Vancouver, where Williams works as an adult educator, the effects have been severe.
Over the last few years, three adult education centres in the city have closed.
Enrollment has declined, and according to Williams, this is because the province cancelled what was previously called the ‘education guarantee’.
The ‘education guarantee’ provided free high-school course completion and upgrades for adults so they can qualify for post-secondary education.
Starting in 2015, adult learners have to pay $550 per course.
“Five-hundred-and-fifty dollars is a lot of money in a city like Vancouver where rent is, you know, incredibly expensive,” said Williams, who is also the president of the adult education sub-local executive committee of the Vancouver Elementary School Teachers’ Education.
Stressing the value of adult education, Williams said: “Right now, our workforce often requires that you change careers once, twice, three times in a lifetime.”
In order to make a successful career shift, one has to complete a new post-secondary education, and this requires a recent high-school course completion or upgrade.
“If you want to go into nursing, you have to take Biology 12,” Williams explained. “It has to be from the last two years. It can’t be, your course cannot older than that. So there is an expiry, or they call it a recency date.”
Williams works at the Main Street Education Centre based at Gladstone Secondary School on the east side of the city, one of three remaining adult education centres in Vancouver.
Her centre and the Gathering Place Centre located downtown are proposed to be closed as part of budget cutting measures for school year 2017-2018.
If the closures happen, all adult education programs will be delivered at the South Hill Centre on Fraser Street.
“We’re very concerned that by closing the two schools downtown and in East Vancouver, that are cutting off access to education for a lot of our people, and this is particularly, you know, at a time where a lot of students are trying to go back to post-secondary,” Williams said.
The proposed closure of the two adult education centres will save $543,891.
The school district needs to cut a total of more than $2 million in education, administration and maintenance cost to balance its budget for school year 2017-2018.
A new staff report about the budget is scheduled to be presented at a school board meeting Wednesday (April 19).
Williams is hoping the Main Street and Gathering Place centres will be spared from the chopping block in the revised budget proposal.
“We’re asking that the Vancouver school board to show … foresight and keep the [adult education] schools open,” Williams said.
A decision on the budget will be made by Vancouver school trustee Dianne Turner on April 26.