WATCH: Hundreds of parents and children gathered at locations across B.C. today to draw attention to what they describe as the underfunding of public education. Kristen Robinson reports.
Rallies were held across the province today in support of public education.
Teachers, parents and students gathered in Vancouver, Victoria, Nanaimo, Maple Ridge and Kelowna to protest cuts being mandated by the provincial government.
The province has asked school boards to find a combined $54 million in administrative savings in the next two years, but many school boards have said that those savings could directly affect students.
WATCH: The changes to education spending in this year’s budget caught some off guard when they were announced in February
“We have been fundraising constantly since my son started kindergarten. There’s a fundraiser almost every month,” says Jennifer Stewart, a parent and member of the Fix BC Ed group that organized a rally outside the Vancouver Art Gallery.
“We’ve had about 12 years of cuts,” said BCTF President Jim Iker.
“What we’ve seen in the latest budget is a government that does not see our children, our future, public education as a priority.”
However, Premier Christy Clark has called the decisions districts would have to make to find savings “low-hanging fruit”, arguing other regional administrative boards have found savings in recent years.
Education Minister Peter Fassbender said the province’s is investing $421 million more to the budget in the next three years, proof of their commitment to the issue.
“Parents are expressing their concern over the future of education, and I welcome their input. I am listening to what they’re saying, but I think the basic premise, that education is underfunded, I do not agree with,” he said.
“When we are investing in education as we are over the next three years…that is directly going into classrooms, including an increase of 33 per cent to the Learning Improvement Fund to deal with what was a large issue during the negotiation and the strikes, which was class composition.”
But Iker says the government is reversing any progress found in last year’s deal.
“They said that they would totally fund our settlement, and what they’ve done is force our school districts to cut,” he said.
“It’s not low-hanging fruit. Our children are not low-hanging fruit.”