It was a busy couple of days in Prince George for Kathy Corrigan this week.
“I was at the forum on public education on Monday,” the NDP spokesperson for advanced education said on Tuesday. “I spoke with a lot of people there, then I had a meeting this morning with the local board of education. It as a great meeting I’m really impressed with the quality of the trustees here.”
The main reason for Corrigan being in Prince George was just that – to talk to people about education.
“The message I’m getting from all levels in this area is that provincial cuts are having a real impact on students at all levels. Programs are being cut, not because they’re not strong, but because boards have to make their budgets work.”
Some of those programs are in the dentistry department at the College of New Caledonia, where the board will decide today whether to suspend intakes in the programs to allow for a re-assessment of the programs.
“What we’re seeing is true across the province,” Corrigan said, “but is having particular impact in Prince George and the surrounding communities. The provincial government is making education less accessible. It’s harder for people to upgrade their education now, and with courses being cut, it’s more difficult for students to stay in the north to do their post-secondary education.”
To Corrigan, it boils down to a simple question.
“Is it important in this province to invest in education in the north?
“For decades under previous governments, there was an agreement that it was to the benefit of the whole province to invest in the north. This government is not doing that.”
She said from her conversations with students currently in the dental programs at CNC as well as people who had graduated from the courses, she learned it wasn’t an exclusively northern program.
“The programs attract people from the Lower Mainland, and, after they finish the programs, they realize they want to stay here and work.”
She found one common thread whoever she talked to in the education community in the city, whether it was CNC president Henry Reiser, faculty, graduates or students.
“Everyone is so passionate about education.”
The CNC board’s decision to look at suspending intakes for the dental program as well as possibly cutting counselling services are things she can’t really criticize.
“I don’t want to second-guess the cuts they’re looking at. The decisions are being made to cut the more expensive programs, like dentistry, because there is nothing else left to cut.
“The government should be making decisions on funding based on what’s in the best long-term interests of the province. To do what they are doing is a very short-term approach, and vert short-sighted.”
Corrigan says it’s becoming more and more apparent that school bodies across the province are figuring out how to make a stand.
“The B.C. School Trustees Association has always been a middle-of-the-road group, doing their best to work with the government of the day. They are starting to become more vocal in their complaints about this government’s policies on funding education.”