Posts tagged "advanced education"

Democracy and education: they go together, except when the government doesn’t like it?

(originally posted at PoliticsRespun.org – see here)

The recent controversy over the Vancouver School Board’s budget situation has been a bit of an interesting story to follow.  Much like every other school board in the province, the VSB has been wrangling with a considerable problem: the costs of providing a high-quality public education continuously increase, while the funding that comes from the provincial government doesn’t keep pace.

This isn’t a problem that only the elementary, middle, and high schools face; indeed, every public educational institution in this province, from the Vancouver School Board to Simon Fraser University must somehow find a way to balance their budgets in the face of increasing costs and stagnant levels of funding.  I’m certainly not an accountant, but the financial problem that all school boards — and our colleges and universities — face is a substantial one.  When costs increase and funding doesn’t match, then cuts to education need to be made because the provincial government has legally required all school boards, colleges, and universities to submit balanced budgets.   To repeat: all school boards, colleges, universities, and public educational institutions are required, by law, to submit balanced budgets.  This is a feat that even the provincial government itself couldn’t accomplish, instead, they amended their balanced budget law giving themselves a pass.

But the legally required balanced budgets aren’t the crux of this issue.  The true centre of the controversy was the fact that the Vancouver School Board stood up and spoke out about their financial issues.  They publicly called upon the provincial government to fairly fund education.  They postponed approving their budget because the legally required balanced budget would have meant substantial cuts to education and school closures.  They acted as advocates for education.

It seems that this was something that the province didn’t want the VSB to do.  The minister of education commissioned the comptroller general to investigate the school board’s management practices and report back with recommendations on how the budget could be balanced.  The submitted report essentially branded the VSB trustees as incompetent; apparently, they spent too much time discussing the impacts of underfunding on the school district, they spent too much time discussing how they could best advocate for education, and they didn’t spent nearly enough time just dealing with it and cutting education.  Of course, the issue of provincial funding was out-of-bounds for the comptroller general’s report.

It’s interesting to note what wasn’t out-of-bounds, though: the entire principle of elected school boards.  The report from the comptroller general noted that elected school trustees, for some entirely incomprehensible reason, felt that their job was to advocate for education.  And because education actually needs a lot of advocacy under the BC Liberals, the trustees had been engaging in advocacy.  So, the comptroller general suggested that the government should re-consider the ‘co-governance’ model of education.  Reconsider having elected school boards.

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advanced education should be bracing for impacts – and getting ready to say no to budget cuts

The following appeared on the Stop BC Library Cuts website today, after an communiqué from the provincial government:

On August 20, 2009 the Province of British Columbia announced that the provincial dollars to support public libraries would be $13,700,000, which is about 78% of previous years. While this represents a reduction, the libraries of BC are pleased to see that the provincial government recognizes the integral role public libraries play in community development and literacy.1

While I disagree with the ‘pleased sentiment’ (being happy with a cut in funding to important services isn’t the best approach, in my humble opinion), I think that what’s happening to the public libraries in the province should be making us in advanced education start to brace for impacts.

CBC reported today that the Finance Minister of the province is telling BC voters to get ready for a “very, very difficult budget.”  According to CBC,

“We are desperately trying to maintain the critical services in health care and education and the social services. So it’s definitely been a challenging summer,” the finance minister said Wednesday.

I would not be surprised to hear that provincial funding transfers to universities were to be impacted in much the same way that the libraries have been.  This will be an incredibly difficult budget for universities to cope with, especially since they’re already five months into a fiscal year.

In short, I think we should be bracing for the impact – and getting ready to say no.

envision education / get involved with the university community

“envision education”
A community-led visioning workshop – creating a new vision for our university

What is this event?
“envision education” is a community-led visioning workshop that brings together members of the university community to develop a plan for our university. Community resistance to cutbacks, budget reductions, layoffs, and program elimination is met with two general responses: “what would you rather us do?” and “there is no alternative.” A workshop that brings together the university community will enable us to develop an alternative, and propose ideas that we can work for at our university.
Think of your ideas that would answer these questions: what should our university be? What should education be? How do we get there?
The workshop will be led by organizers with the SFU Community Coalition, and is open to all members of the university community.

When and where?
The workshop will be held on Friday, May 15th from 11:30am to 1:30pm in room MBC 2290 at the SFU Burnaby campus.

Who can participate?
All members of the university community are welcome to participate – a broad range of participation allows us to develop a wide and encompassing idea of what we think our university should be.

How do I sign up?
If you would like to attend and participate in the visioning workshop, please confirm your attendance by contacting Kevin Harding by email at kharding@sfu.ca. Please include your name, email address, and which campus constituency you belong to (APSA, CUPE, SFUFA, TSSU, GSS, SFSS, Poly Party, or other) to help the organizers plan for numbers. Please register by May 14th.

What do I need to bring?
Mostly yourself – we hope to have representation from all the community constituencies so that we can bring together a wide vision of what the university should be. Bring your thoughts on what you think the university and education should be, and how we can get there.

The take-home message?
· “envision education”
· a community-led visioning workshop – creating a new vision for our university
· Friday, May 15th, 11:30am-1:30pm.
· Register by emailing your details to kharding@sfu.ca
· Think about these questions: what should our university be? What should education be? How do we get there?