Christy Clark's legacy of education cuts lingers in B.C.

Vancouver board of education chair Patti Bacchus, who’s facing the unpleasant possibility of having to close down schools, looks back ruefully at the days when Christy Clark was minister of education.

It was the early years of the new millennium and Bacchus was a nonactivist mom with two kids attending Queen Mary elementary school.

Clark, who may yet join the race for the leadership of the B.C. Liberal party, was the cabinet minister in charge of the education portfolio. The government had decided not to fund salary increases for teachers for the academic years 2002–03 and 2003–04, leaving the province’s school boards with no choice but to absorb the cost and cut services.

“That was probably the biggest year of funding shortfall that I know of that Vancouver had,” Bacchus told the Georgia Straight in a phone interview.

According to figures from the Vancouver school board, the district had a budget shortfall of $25.5 million for school year 2002–03, the largest deficit so far in almost a decade.

“I remember it was really our principal telling our PAC [parent advisory council] how it would affect our school,” the first-term Vision Vancouver school trustee related. “So it was going to be reductions in learning-assistance time, special-education support, library time, supervision-aide time. We were quite shocked that anyone would do that.”

Some parents suggested increasing fundraising activities. But Bacchus said she felt there was a bigger problem than the group could address through fundraising. She recalled that the Save Our Schools movement was born out of these events, and it was through its activities that she began to get involved in wider social issues.

“I never had planned to get involved in politics,” she said. “But I was so outraged at what they were doing to the schools. That was the beginning.”

SOS members eventually collected the signatures of about 14,000 people on a petition calling for full provincial funding of the cost of public education. Some parents took these signatures to Clark’s office, but the education minister refused to meet them. She dismissed them, according to Bacchus, as puppets of the B.C. Teachers’ Federation.

“It was absurd because it was really a wide cross section of people, probably people who would have been Liberal supporters or NPA [Non-Partisan Association] supporters,” Bacchus said. “This was about what was right for kids; it wasn’t an ideological issue. It was just people saying, ”˜This is not the direction we need to be going.’ ”

Clark’s website offers a different version of the former education minister’s record. “As Education Minister, Christy brought major changes to the school system, focusing on improved accountability and outcomes,” the account reads. “She increased parental involvement, led the effort to end junk food sales in schools and introduced a fellowship to recognize excellence in teaching.”

Clark, who is on a one-week leave from her job as a talk-show host on CKNW, did not respond to an interview request by deadline.

Asked for her views on Clark possibly aspiring to lead the ruling provincial party, Bacchus said, “There’s no question that her tenure as education minister was marked by a lot of conflict, a very combative approach, a pretty aggressive approach to the teachers’ union. I so strongly believe that our students are best served when we can try to work together. We need to be supporting the people who teach and work with our students.”

Clark served as education minister until 2004. “I would hope that if Christy Clark is successful, that she has maybe gained some of that wisdom over the time since she was in office,” Bacchus added.

On Friday (December 3), school-district staff will release their recommendations on the fate of five schools. These are the Carleton, Macdonald, and Queen Alexandra elementary schools, and the McBride and Champlain Heights annexes.

The staff report will be presented to two committees of the school board on December 7. According to long-time school-board member Ken Denike of the Non-Partisan Association, he and other trustees will have the final say on closures when they meet on December 14.

Jane Bouey, a trustee who represents the Coalition of Progressive Electors, noted that none of the declared candidates for B.C. Liberal leader as of November 30—Moira Stilwell, George Abbott, and Kevin Falcon—have made any promises to increase funding for K-12 schools.

Comments (14) Add New Comment
RonS
Non of them, the Fiberals, will increase funding for any level of education. The Fiberals are privatizing our education system like they are privatizing all public services. The Fiberals are selling off everything. Then they'll impose user fees for all the services our government should be giving us through our tax dollars. Instead they're giving Big Business our tax dollars. Soon they'll be charging us for the air we breath. We don't need Christy Clark or any Fiberals, we need honesty in government.
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RonS
CC is carrying more baggage than a fully loaded BC Rail coal train. I hope she wins the LIbERal "leadership" (if there is such a thing). I can't wait for her to defend her vote to cut funding to education, sell BC Rail and defend what her ex-husband was upto at the time. Afterall she was sitting at Gordo's side when the BC Rail decision was made.

I want to remind everyone of an old WWII saying, "loose lips sink ships"? Well Christy can't keep her mouth shut, as proven by her stint at CKNW. She'll slip up and.... glub glub ... down she goes!

By the way, I think she and Palin can see Russia from their front windows!
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Strawman Argument
It sickens me that whenever someone makes a criticism of BCTF, legitimate or not, they instantly deflect it and cry "THINK OF THE CHILDREN!!!!1"
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Birdy
What a brilliant plot:
1. Cut education, dumb down the next generation.
2. Wait 10 years, until the kids can vote.
3. Run for Premier, and pander to stupid young people.
4. ???
5. Profit
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Frank Turdshoe
If she's smart,she'll stay in radio.
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Mike Grant
Christy Clark has Taliban approval HST activists really really want her to win!
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RickW
Strawman Argument:

If it isn't about the children, then what IS it about?
RickW
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ian2
Doesn't matter. Kwan has handed them the next election. Thanks Jenny. This is your legacy.
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Stephen Elliott-Buckley
"her history as a minister of education who presided over large funding shortfalls may come under scrutiny"?

not so much "may", but "will".

i guarantee it. :)
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welldoneson
The headline is a lie - when advocates speak of "cutting education funding" they mean cutting the amount of the INCREASE.
Education funding has NEVER been actually CUT.

The education system has been "dumbing down" the electorate for at least two generations, despite spending increases in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

Class size requirments have more to do with providing more teaching postions. "Special needs" requirements have more to do with providing higher paying jobs for specially trained teachers. They do NOTHING to improve education outcomes for the typical student, which have been declining for decades.

That is the definition of dumbing down. Plain and obvious.

No amount of whining from the left can change these facts - it can only hide them.
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glen p robbins
Christy needs to ask herself this question---Will the federal voter in the Okanagan who votes for Stephen Harper and who supported Gordon Campbell prior to the HST----vote for her in a general provincial election?

If the answer is "Yes" she should run for the BC Liberal leadership - if the answer is "No" she should not.
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Typical politician
She wreaked havoc on education when she was minister and then sent her son to private school.
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GOT
ah yes...'family first', eh? That would be Christy's family, then her Liberal friends' families. Yep. Same old same old. If you belong to a union, your family won't count. Working class people don't have real families, at least not the kind that Christy is thinking about. Swank homes in Point Grey and kids in private schools - now that's Christy's kinda family! There's two words for the rest of us, and they're spelled with a big F and little O.
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GOT
to welldoneson - obviously the dumbing down is working. Well done!
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