Provincial Election Question #9 for Shuswap Candidates …

question mark… is on Public vs. Private Education Funding.

Readers’ questions have been coming in but there’s still room for more. If you have a burning question for the candidates, click here for further information to submit it to Aim High. Your questions should be geared to all of the candidates and not just for one of them. 

* Each question is forwarded to the declared candidates a few days prior to the question actually being posted online here at Aim High. The candidates then email me their responses to be included with the initial question. Readers and the candidates can discuss via the Comment section.

Next week’s question is on climate change – personal beliefs and party policies.

This week’s question is: As you are aware, the province provides financial support to students who receive their education outside of the public school system, whether in private schools or home-based studies.

In a community such as Salmon Arm where the number of students receiving private education would appear to be at least 10 per cent of the student-age population, their absence could tip the balance in favour of school closures, making public education less accessible for those in less affluent circumstances who are faced with significant transporation issues.

On a broader social scale, one of the benefits of a public school system is to provide young people with a common grounding so they can function as a community with a shared education. Dividing the student body as we do now creates a division within our community with young people having little in common with their neighbours.

Will you, if elected, work to decrease the public funding of private education over time, restoring the resources to the public school system?

Candidate Responses (in the order received):

Tom Birch (BC Conservatives):

I fully support the public school system and with minor exceptions my three children attended public schools for their education. However, I must say that I disagree with the premise presented in this question.

Parents are first and foremost the guardians of their children and not the state. Therefore, parents must be given control over what they feel is best for their children’s education within the mandated objectives.

Currently, only 50% of the funds reserved for a child’s education follow the child and 50% go to the public school even if the child does not. This aids parents to pursue options that they believe are in the best interest of their children and it also allows the public school more $/student than they would otherwise have.

I believe that the provincial average is close to 25% of students that are not in the pubic school full time. That means that for each child who is in the public school, the school district receives 112% of what they would otherwise have had. This was done by design to help to even out the quality of education between public and private schools. Many people feel this is unfair to the parents who have chosen other options.

So no, I would not attempt to limit the options that parents have for their children’s education.

Chris George ( Green Party of BC):


Currently private schools receive 50% of the per student funding that a public school would receive for a student if the private schools costs per student are equal to or less than the public school amount and 35% if their cost per student is higher. Children whose parents decide to homeschool receive $750 per year in support funding. This seems reasonable to me.

Choice in education is not a bad thing. I have met an awful lot of kids in my life, I used to be one. Not one of them was the same. While it is important that we all learn social skills, I do not think it is as important as making sure that every child has the right education for them. Our public education system was designed to do the best for the most. The challenges come from those children who need extra help or those who need enrichment. There are also cultural issues to think of. In a multicultural province like British Columbia it is important that parents have a choice. I do not see that providing this choice would take anything away from our public school system or our society.

Greens will work towards finding an alternative to the per student funding model that has been so detrimental to educational outcomes in our province. It encourages us to think in either/or terms, it encourages the framing of your question. A Green government will look at all funding models and find one that will deliver better outcomes.

We will provide more money for extracurricular activities in sports, the arts and in community outreach to encourage a healthy community spirit, social creativity and leadership in our kids. Maybe we can even find some money to fund bussing for field trips so that our Parent Advisory Councils can focus their fundraising efforts on educational enrichment activities instead of spending thousands of dollars annually on transportation.

A Green government would promote a community school model that provides libraries, recreation facilities, technology and training areas, fine arts theatres and studios in partnership with municipalities, regional districts, elementary and secondary schools. By innovating in community education we can better utilize our physical assets and keep these schools open. A Green government would provide the necessary funding to allow these assets to truly become the heart of their communities.

We have spent too much time and effort on making sure that we have a strong economy, often at the expense of a healthy environment and a society that values every member. A Green government would bring balance, between the social, the environmental and the economic. It is not an either/or thing. The days of scarcity are long behind us. Education is critical to our long term success in all three areas and we should treat it accordingly.

Steve Gunner (BC NDP):

The NDP has always championed the concept of a fully funded and supported public education system that is accessible to all people. We believe that the very foundation of a healthy, prosperous and intelligent society is an education system that allows every person in BC to develop to their fullest potential regardless of economic and societal factors. We will be working hard, one practical step at a time to ensure that the education system in British Columbia is well-funded, competently administered and has the best possible outcomes for all students.

We have an obligation to the people of British Columbia to follow through on our promises and this means that we need to ensure that we limit our list of promises to that we know we can achieve in the next four years.

Greg Kyllo (BC Liberals):

I appreciate that this important issue has been raised.

I have a huge amount of respect for our world-class public school system in BC, and particularly in the Shuswap. While in grade five at Parkview Elementary I won a District-wide slogan writing competition – my slogan was quite simply “Education is Forever” and the Shuswap was riddled with deep pink bumper-stickers citing the slogan, my school and my name. Quite the notoriety for a 10 year old, however at 10 years old I was more interested in the $65.00 cash prize. I think I still have one kicking around somewhere. I wonder if any of your readers can remember them?

I certainly had a great experience in school and was very much appreciative of the extra efforts of a select group of inspiring teachers who were committed to extra-curricular activities. Some of the educators that stand out to me include Tony Beeftink, Frank Manning, Eric Walters, Pat Hutchinson, Ed Lavalee, Jim Hill and Sandy Cameron, however there were many more that played an equally important role in my education. But I must admit that there were also a select few teachers that had no place in a classroom. I also believe that one’s education is certainly not limited to the classroom and lessons learned on the field, in the locker-room and through Student Council involvement in organizing dances and fundraising events were of equal importance.

My four daughters all attended both Parkview Elementary and Eagle River Secondary in Sicamous, with my youngest due to graduate this June. They all certainly have their own unique personalities, different interests, and are motivated by different means. Having said that, our oldest daughter Sarah is the academic and recently graduated at the top of her class from TRU in Kamloops with a Degree in Journalism and is considering Law School in the fall; Brittany chose to pursue trades training and attended two semesters in Armstrong taking hair-dressing and followed up with 10 months of post secondary training with a Global Makup Diploma Progam at Blanche MacDonald in Vancouver and now is assistant manager of make-up and cosmetics at Shoppers Drug Mart in Salmon Arm; Angie took a year of general studies in Kelowna and spent this past winter working in Grand Prairie in the service industry and has decided to re-enroll in college in the fall; and Samantha is planning to take a legal secretary program this fall. Each of the girls have their own distinct goals and dreams and I feel confident that the education that they have received in our local school system has prepared them well.

The education of our youth is of utmost importance to both parents and society in order to secure a bright future for BC.. I have a great deal of respect for our school system and our teaching community.

Along with locally-elected boards of education, Government co-governs the public education system. The provincial government provides funding, establishes curricula and sets standards.

The question is about funding – and I think it is important to note that we are providing record levels of funding in public education, despite seeing many communities struggle with declining enrolment and we are continuing to protect education funding by maintaining our operating grants to local boards of education at $4.7 billion per year.

However I believe that when it comes to education, parents should be able to chose the best educational program for their child, for example a faith-based school in an independent school system. In BC, this currently includes traditional public schooling, distributed learning, homeschooling, or attending an independent school. The Independent School Act gives independent schools the ability to provide education in a way that has a particular cultural or religious component, as long as it is consistent with the guidelines set out in the Act, and I believe this is appropriate.

The BC Liberal Government has also been focused on bringing more flexibility and personalized learning to public education. Eighteen months ago the BC Education Plan was launched, focused around five areas: personalized learning for every student, quality teaching, flexibility and choice, high standards, and learning empowered by technology. I support this exciting plan and I want to see that their goals are achieved.

I also support the Premier’s goal of finding a way to get to a 10-year deal with teachers. I believe that we must try harder and take new approaches to finding lasting labour peace. This will be a priority for me if elected, because when our talented, hard-working, and caring teachers are unable to be in the classroom, very little else matters.

Once again, as I have said in previous answers, the single most important issue for me in this election is maintaining our strong economy. The BC Liberals are relentlessly focused on growing our economy with the BC Jobs Plan, Liquefied Natural Gas, low tax rates, and a balanced budget. This will continue to be our focus, so that we have access to the revenues that can provide the services we want for our children and their future. The best intentions in the world can’t be achieved without a strong economy to adequately fund the many unique and necessary social programs.


* From Tim: This post will stick at the top of the blog until the next question and responses are posted next Sunday!

– Here are many ways to follow the Declared Shuswap Candidates for the Provincial Election May 14 2013 on the web

… and don’t forget to send in your questions! There is still room/time for more!

… Plus here is the link to previous questions/responses:


Author: Tim Lavery

Aim High Salmon Arm It matters

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