Prince George was the first of what Kevin Rose hopes will be a series of forums on public education in B.C.
Rose, the provincial K-12 coordinator for the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), was one of the speakers at a forum Monday evening at the College of New Caledonia.
“It was a very good crowd,” he said. “It was a diverse crowd. There were school trustees, excluded staff from some of the schools. It wasn’t just a CUPE thing, it was a public gathering.”
And what they heard from Rose and other speakers was a very simple message.
“The government needs to prioritize the funding of education at every step, from kindergarten to post-secondary, especially in the north.
“The small community colleges and the school districts up here have different needs and challenges. They need more funding.”
He cited transportation and heating costs as among the extra expenses northern districts and schools face, which schools in other areas do not.
The forum was held at the start of a week which could see dental programs at CNC have their intakes suspended as the college board attempts to make its budget work.
“The board is being asked to make impossible choices,” Rose said. “They have to make these cuts, they don’t want to. It comes back to the government priorities for funding.”
The CNC board is scheduled to make a final decision on suspending the program intakes, cutting counselling services and other measures to balance the budget at a meeting today (April 24). The meeting starts at 11 a.m. in the board room.
He said another change which will possibly affect people in rural communities more than those in larger centres is the decision to begin charging tuition for Adult Basic Education (ABE) courses.
“The people who are accessing ABE,” Rose said, “are frequently the people who are on the fringes – the single parent, the person working at an entry-level job who wants to improve their skill set.
“They are the ones being hurt by this change, but that affects the entire community.”
He again emphasized the different needs of schools at all levels in the north.
“The cookie-cutter approach this government is using for funding just doesn’t work.”