Groups call on B.C. education minister Margaret MacDiarmid to reverse cuts

Groups representing parents, teachers, school trustees, and school workers have banded together to oppose the B.C. government’s cuts to the public education system.

Yesterday (October 6), the leaders of the B.C. Confederation of Parent Advisory Councils, B.C. School Trustees Association, B.C. Teachers’ Federation, and Canadian Union of Public Employees B.C. sent a joint letter to Minister of Education Margaret MacDiarmid.

Their “unprecedented” letter calls on the minister to “reverse” the cutbacks.

Here's the letter in full:

October 6, 2009

VIA FACSIMILE: 250-387-3200

Honourable Margaret MacDiarmid
Minister of Education and Minister Responsible for Early Learning and Literacy
Victoria, BC V8W 9E2

Dear Minister MacDiarmid:

On September 23, 2009, the elected representatives of British Columbia’s largest education stakeholder groups agreed to write you to express our growing concern regarding the recent cuts made to BC’s public education system. We agreed to send this unprecedented letter outlining our shared concern about the cutbacks to programs and grants that are now being felt by students in classrooms across the province. Through this letter parents, school workers, teachers, and trustees have come together to ask you to reverse these damaging cuts.

British Columbia has one of the best public education systems in the world. Collectively, all of our members work hard every day to ensure BC’s students are well supported and receive the best education possible. We are worried, however, that our system’s excellent standing is at risk as our ability to meet the needs of every student erodes due to these cutbacks.

As minister of education, you have stated that your intent in these difficult economic times is to protect services for students, especially vulnerable students. However, unfunded cost pressures such as salary and Medical Service Plan increases, as well as costs associated with rising BC Hydro rates, H1N1 prevention, gas prices, the Harmonized Sales Tax, and carbon neutrality mean less district funding is available to directly support students.

Additionally, the cancellation of the $110 million Annual Facilities Grant part way through the year has caused significant disruption. Many boards had already committed to school repairs prior to being informed that the normally expected funding would not be forthcoming. While some boards were able to divert funds earmarked for other projects to pay for the repairs, others were left with significant deficits, and many support and trades positions have been eliminated. We are also very concerned that there are no indications in the budget documents released on September 1, 2009, that the Annual Facilities Grant will be restored.

The decision to transfer stable CommunityLINK funding for vulnerable students from the Ministry of Education’s core services to the less reliable gaming grants program, also causes education partner groups a great deal of concern. There is no guarantee that funding for this critically important program will be forthcoming in years to come, resulting in significant impact on our most vulnerable students as well as our Aboriginal students.

Furthermore, the decision to fund CommunityLINK through gaming grants has forced other important community programs, such as support for school sports and Parent Advisory Councils, to be reduced or cancelled. As parent fundraising efforts increase in order to make up for the lost gaming funds, their energies will be diverted from conversations around educational goals in their respective schools.

The result of the above funding decisions will likely result in long-term instability, larger class sizes, and reduced services for students including those with special needs. School sporting events will be at risk, and Parent Advisory Councils will have to reduce support for student supplies, field trips, computers, and library books. Schools in poorer communities will be hardest hit by these cuts. Districts will be forced to reduce staffing and student support services, including teachers, special education assistants, and counsellors.

On behalf of the BC Confederation of Parent Advisory Councils, the BC School Trustees Association, the BC Teachers’ Federation, and the Canadian Union of Public Employees BC, we urge you to reverse these cuts to prevent significant erosion of BC’s outstanding public education system.

Yours sincerely,

Anne Whiteaker
President BCCPAC

Connie Denesiuk
President BCSTA

Irene Lanzinger
President BCTF

Barry O’Neill
President CUPE BC

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Oct 7, 2009 at 1:40pm

I'm a learning assistance teacher whose time was cut by 30%. My ability to serve my students has been diminished dramatically. My students have not become less needy, nor are there less of them. I am glad to do what I can for my students, but unfortunately stress, and less time to do the same workload are having a toll on me. Add to that, the need to drive around between schools to have enough work to support myself financially. The people of this province need to start valuing their children's education and the people who deliver that education. It is time to start voting, and voting responsibly. Our present government has been hacking away at education funding since they got into power 8 years ago.


Oct 7, 2009 at 3:17pm

This Margaret macdiarmid is a weak. Do nothing. Disgrace of an education minister, Even worse than Shirleynot. Bond. , oh. How. I long. For joy macphail. An education. Minister. That. Actually. Stood up for. Public education and got things done. For students. Without cutting funding from underneath them.

Sick of Liberals

Oct 7, 2009 at 11:44pm

I am sick of listening to Gordo's words through Mcdiarmid's mouth over an over that more funding ever for education, Can somebody please tell her that she should be ashamed of herself lying to the public of British columbia.

Pat Truelove

Oct 16, 2009 at 8:35pm

It may not be the time to say this, but it's about time! For too long, teachers have been left alone to fight this battle, while the leaders of BCCPAC and BCSTA were silent or complicit. Perhaps they have learned to listen more to their members.


Oct 17, 2009 at 7:02pm

I find it very difficult to understand why people aspire to be teachers, it seems like you work way too hard, receive minimal wages( for your education level) and the growing job description. The challenges of a diversified class, under supplied materials, and lack of support in the classroom.In addition, the multitude of demands that parents put on just boggles me that it is this way. I for one have a lot of respect for your commitment, and have been quite impressed when your union has stood firm and fought back against the government. I am sure there are many hundreds of thousands of British Columbians that support you...we just need a leader to lead us again.

student for students

Apr 7, 2010 at 8:46pm

I am a Camosun College student, and I am doing my practicum at an elementary school in the greater Victoria School District. I was sent to work in a class with little support and an abundance of needs. Day after day I take on a (free) full work load by helping out children who do not receive the special attention they disserve and need because there is not enough staff to support all the children in need. The education assistants are spread so thin and barely get enough time to make a difference in a student’s day. It is so sad how much help is needed and how much help is able to be offered. I honestly do not know how teachers do it day after day. Education is so important, so why are we compromising the future leaders of tomorrow's right to a "good" education? Why are we cutting employment where help is most needed? WE NEED TO MAKE A CHANGE! These children are going to fall through the cracks of the educational system because we can't provide them the help they need and disserve in order to succeed!


Sep 9, 2010 at 3:38pm

I'm in complete agreement with "Trutch&first". As a doctor, Margaret MacDiarmid was a very rude, distant, belittling, and didn't have an ounce of compassion, so i'm not surprised that she is a disgrace of an education minister.