British Columbia

'Completely false' that B.C. schools are underfunded: Education minister

B.C.'s Education Minister Mike Bernier defended his government's record, saying funding has increased every year since the Liberals have been in power.

A Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives report argues student funding in B.C. is second worst in Canada

B.C.'s Education Minister Mike Bernier says funding for education has gone up since the Liberals took power in 2001. (Simon Charland-Faucher/CBC)

B.C.'s Education Minister Mike Bernier is challenging a new report by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives that claims funding for B.C. schools is the second worst in the country.

The report argues funding for B.C.'s students — as a share of GDP — has dropped by 25% over the last 15 years.

The CCPA report also refers to a 2011 Statistics Canada report that showed the amount of money spent per student in public elementary and secondary schools in the province was $11,832 — the second lowest in Canada.

Bernier spoke with Rick Cluff on the CBC's The Early Edition and defended his government's record.

"We've increased funding every single year in the province ... We've increased our budget 32% since we've come into power and at the same time, aside from last year and this year, we've seen a decrease in about 70,000 students. It's completely false to say we haven't increased our funding."

Bernier added the Statistics Canada report was misleading, as "every province does things differently when it comes to accounting principles."

CCPA: additional costs not taken into account

Alex Hemingway, the author of the CCPA report, pointed out there are additional cost pressures on schools — such as increased BC Hydro rates and MSP premiums — that get downloaded onto the schools.

"They add up," he said. "We've seen in freedom of information documents that these add up to about $200 million from the 2012-2015 school year. These serious costs pressures aren't being incorporated in those numbers."

Bernier did not directly comment on this point, but said that school districts that see an increase in students also see an increase in funding. The districts can then decide how they want to use the money.

He pointed out the government has made a number of recent funding announcements for schools —  $15 million to school districts to help with transportation, and almost $100 million in funding for Surrey's overcrowded classrooms.

"When you look at the outcomes we're getting, it shows the success," he said.

"Going back to school next week, everybody should be very proud."

With files from The Early Edition

To listen to the interview, click on the link labelled Education Minister Mike Bernier on back to school challenges


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