Students, teachers and taxpayers need a long-term solution to the perpetual funding crisis in B.C.'s schools. Education Minister Peter Fassbender has given school boards the welcome news that the province will cover the cost of any pay increases for teachers this year.
He would do well to look for a way to end the roller-coaster of money questions that seem to confront school boards every year. The promise to fund teachers' pay increases does not extend to raises for support staff such as custodians and education assistants. For these workers, who have not had a raise for four years, school boards have been told they will have to find the money through cost savings elsewhere in their budgets.
The double standard is glaring.
The difference, of course, is that the province is driving teacher negotiations in an effort to secure a 10-year contract that will buy peace. But the contrasting - and changing - policies are confusing for everyone. In December, the government told trustees that they would have to find savings to cover any raises for support staff. It later backed down in the face of trustee outrage. Then this summer, after the election, the order was back on the table: Trustees would have to find the money themselves.
The message is that money is available for the things the government wants, but not for things that trustees or staff might want. Budgets are tight but we must find a way to pay for education in this province without constantly budgeting by brinkmanship.
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