A new study by the Fraser Institute shows spending on public schools in B.C. has increased by 20% in the last decade.
According to the right-leaning think tank, that’s despite B.C. having the country’s largest decline in enrollment outside of Atlantic Canada during that period.
Author Deani Van Pelt says it’s data that should be used to inform the raging debate about how we manage our education system.
“If we understand that we do indeed continue to increase the amount that we spent on education then maybe we can get to asking those important question of how the money is spent.”
The figure was arrived at by adjusting spending for inflation, but also includes cash infusions to capital costs like new school construction or renovation along with boosts to teacher pension plans.
The B.C. government says it has spent $1.12-billion so far to complete 153 high risk seismic projects at the province’s schools.
The report adds while BC has increased total spending by about 20%, it’s also boosted per-student funding by just over 18% in the last decade. Both figures are the lowest in Canada.
Van Pelt says the increase remains significant, and that the data should be of interest to the public as election-season approaches.
“I think it’s very important for every single voter, tax payer, parent and grandparent to be aware that we continue to increase our spending on education and to start asking harder questions of anyone who will be responsible for this expenditure.”
She says residents should be pressing for better value for the dollars that are being spent.
But the numbers clash with another report released this month by left-leaning Vancouver-based think tank the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.
The CCPA says while the raw number of dollars flowing into BC schools has increased, it still leaves the province with the lowest per-student funding in the country, nearly $1,000 per student lower than the national average.
Study author Alex Hemmingway says while the total number of dollars has gone up, so has the actual cost of providing education.
He says districts are facing a growing number of increasing costs, such as Hydro, MSP, EI, and WorkSafe rates; technology upgrades; and salary increases.
“They don’t account for a whole range of additional cost pressures that the provincial government has downloaded onto local school districts that includes things like the doubling of MSP premiums since 2008, 60% BC Hydro increase since 2008.”
“The issue is when you add these costs but you don’t accompany compensating funding with them, then that leaves the system under significant pressure.”
The report says those cost pressures grew by $192-million for BC districts between 2013-2014.
With files from Simon Little