This last week I started feeling the back-to-school energy.
As a mom of three kids and two step kids, my last week of August and first week of September was always about school supplies, fall clothes, and the first-day outfit for them.
They are older now, and only three are still in university, but you can still feel the excitement and nerves as you watch the kids in the mall, or the negotiation of school supplies in Walmart. It is a thrilling time.
One of the things that I like the best about being an MLA is that education is part of the provincial mandate.
I have a passion for teaching having been raised by a teacher and a sister to a school principal and educator. I grew up knowing the importance and feeling the weight of what teachers empathically bring home from their students.
It has been a difficult few years for our educators, our school leaders, and our students. COVID was hard.
Changing guidelines, vicious debates, PPE, changes in learning delivery modes from in person to video back to in person again, all the while trying to keep everyone safe.
But while the restrictions of COVID are lifting, now we have inflationary pressures that are pressing on our school’s budgets.
Many of our school boards and executives were having to make difficult spending cuts to make sure that they were balanced going into the school year.
Last week the provincial government announced a funding top-up for our Central Okanagan School District and many others across BC.
This was welcome relief to districts trying to figure out how to provide bus service, heat schools, pay for portables, and provide great education experience for our children with inflation soaring.
But is it enough?
Our population has skyrocketed, with younger families moving to the Okanagan for our incredible lifestyle, jobs and amenities.
According to SD 23 superintendent Kevin Kaardal, our schools are at 106% of capacity, despite opening two additional elementary schools.
Simply put, we need more schools.
The NDP government decides who gets new schools and how many.
This NDP government promised that they would decrease the use of portables for schools,
and even went so far as to promise that there wouldn’t be any more for the city of Surrey.
In our school district, we have more portables per capita than Surrey.
Having portables puts additional financial pressure on the district’s operating funds and leads to further reduction in monies that should be going to learning and education for our kids.
The situation in the Okanagan is dire, and we need to have more schools started immediately.
This isn’t about the quality of the education, it’s about being able to provide school spaces for the children in our communities.
My question for you this week is this:
Should government tie education funding to inflation yearly?
I love hearing from you!
Please email me at Renee.Merrifield.MLA@leg.bc.ca or call my office at 250-712-3620.