This morning the Parent Advocacy Network (PAN) sent the Minister and Deputy Minister of Education a researched letter of petition signed by 73 parent and community advocacy groups, university art educators and art professionals calling attention to the dramatic decline in access to K-12 arts education across BC and underscoring its vital importance for students in both academic development and social emotional wellbeing. We hope that our collective voice will communicate the urgency of this issue and create the will and context for purposeful action. (download pdf)
The Honourable Rob Fleming, Minister of Education
Scott MacDonald, Deputy Minister
We, as citizens, parents, educators and arts professionals are writing to express our collective concern regarding the marginalization of the arts (visual and performing) within K-12 public education and ask that the government commit to restore arts education within our public schools.
Executive SummaryThe arts are relevant and vital to a public education system that seeks to allow all learners to “be literate, to develop their individual potential and to acquire the knowledge, skills, and attitudes needed to contribute to a healthy, democratic, and pluralistic society and a prosperous and sustainable economy.”[i] Education in the arts has a significant role to play in developing the social and emotional wellbeing of students and in equipping them with the creative, critical and empathic capacities needed to meet the social and economic challenges of a rapidly changing and interconnected world.
The absence of protected, targeted funding for the arts, coupled with the pressure to reduce operational expenditures at the school district level, has led to a steady and persistent erosion of quality and access to arts education over the last two decades. This erosion encompasses significant and critical losses in specialist expertise, material resources and dedicated space across K-12. In 2015/16, less than half of grade 4 and 7 students across the province indicated that they were learning about art or music.[ii] Dedicated spaces for art and music continue to be systematically eliminated as schools are rebuilt or seismically retrofitted to conform to the Ministry Area Standards that restrict the allowable square footage for new school facilities.
The public education system no longer provides a comprehensive, consistent or quality arts education. As a result, arts instruction is being outsourced through private lessons, charities or PAC fundraising, creating unacceptable inequity of access to the arts based on socio-economic advantage. A growing body of research underscores the pivotal role of art education for vulnerable student populations in academic success, mental health and social engagement. Participation in the cultural life of the community and the enjoyment of the arts is a fundamental human right; it is also integral to the implementation of the redesigned BC curriculum.
Urgent intervention is needed to restore equitable access to a quality arts education as a core element within the K-12 curriculum. We ask that the government:
Context and BackgroundArts Education is ImportantEducation in the arts is essential for both the socio-emotional and the academic development of children. The United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), supported by a growing body of research, identifies the importance of quality arts education for renewing educational systems that seek to prepare students for the social, cultural and economic challenges of today’s rapidly changing world.[iii]
The core competencies in the redesigned BC curriculum (critical and creative thinking, communication, understanding of personal and cultural identities and social responsibility) all underscore the relevance of the arts, as these are the skills and habits of mind that the arts intrinsically teach.[iv]
Education in the arts is needed to develop:
Innovation and Creativity:
Artistic practices intrinsically develop the divergent thinking, flexible purposing, persistence and critical reflection central to the creative process. Education in the arts is therefore key for developing the innovative capacities identified by educational and business leaders as the primary skill set for competitiveness in our 21st century economy[v]. Canada falls well below the OECD average for percentage of time allocated to compulsory arts education.[vi] While Canada performs high on current international PISA tests, the World Economic Forum shows its economic competitiveness to be compromised by relatively weak innovation capacity.[vii]
Digital media has transformed the means by which we share and transmit information. Today, over 85% of the information we absorb daily is visual.[viii] Education in the arts has a role and a responsibility to equip students with the visual literacy and cultural understanding needed to critically engage and meaningfully contribute within our increasingly mediated public sphere.[ix]
Mental Health and Societal Well-being:
Research in education and science link engagement in the arts to building the self-confidence, self-regulation and resilience needed for social and emotional well-being.[x] Anxiety, depression and substance misuse are increasing amongst our youth and the arts are shown to promote mental wellbeing through hands on, material exploration and nurturing a healthy sense of identity through authentic self-expression. The latest research in neuroscience links arts to developing empathy and attending to the perspective of others.[xi] This has broad implications for societal health and fostering intercultural understanding.[xii]
Personal Fulfillment and Inclusion:
The arts are essential for cultivating imaginative thought, the senses and the capacity for play. These are key capabilities internationally recognized as indicators of the degree of human well-being, freedom and justice in a society.[xiii] Further to this, participation in cultural production and enjoyment of the arts is not only identified by the United Nations as a fundamental human right[xiv], it is integral to Indigenous ways of knowing, learning and cultural empowerment.[xv] A commitment to the educational goals of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission must include access to culturally appropriate education in the arts for all students.[xvi]
Arts Education in BC Has Been ErodedThe lack of protected, targeted funding for the arts within the education funding envelope, coupled with the pressure to reduce operational expenditures at the school district level, has led to a steady and persistent erosion of quality and access to arts education across K-12 public education over the last two decades. This erosion encompasses significant loss in expertise, material resources and dedicated space.
In elementary schools, when imaginative capacities are most crucially formed, there has been a precipitous decline in specialist teachers.[xvii] Universities and other teacher-accreditation bodies have similarly reduced or eliminated arts education specialist training, particularly at the elementary level. The responsibility for arts education is now placed on generalist teachers, the majority of whom have limited background or training in the arts.[xviii] According to the 2015/16, less than half of grade 4 and 7 students across the province indicated that they were learning about art or music.[xix] Loss of quality, knowledge-based arts education at the elementary level has had a cumulative impact on the decline in quality and scope of fine and applied arts programming at the secondary level, where arts teachers are already under strain to generalize instruction and maximize class sizes for cost efficiencies.[xx] Even where specialists are retained, the amount of compulsory time allocated to the arts has been dramatically reduced; in elementary, arts specialists are now prep time teachers and in secondary, the number of required fine and applied art graduation credits have been reduced by 75%.[xxi] Once the new 2018 graduation guidelines take effect, students will no longer need a single fine or applied arts course to graduate. This decline in specialized time and instruction has resulted in a corresponding loss of art and music rooms.
Schools across the province are being rebuilt and seismically retrofitted to conform to Ministry Area Standards introduced in 2004 that restrict the allowable square footage for new school facilities.[xxii] This document does not allow space provisions for art, music or performance space within elementary schools. The cost of including this additional square footage would increase the cost of construction by only 2%.[xxiii] Dedicated space that can accommodate the materials, equipment and spatial arrangements for engagement in the arts is essential to quality programming. Without intervention, arts education will be structurally and systematically eliminated within the public school system for the next generation and beyond.
Inequities Result from the Erosion of Arts EducationIn the absence of comprehensive, consistent and equitable arts education within public schools, families are outsourcing access to the arts through private lessons and PAC fundraising.[xxiv] This creates inequity of access to arts education based on socio economic status. Given that aboriginal and immigrant families are disproportionately represented within disadvantaged populations[xxv], and that the arts are shown (through longitudinal studies) to correlate with improved life outcomes for at-risk youth[xxvi] in academic achievement, employment opportunities and civic engagement, the loss of arts programming in schools should be a matter of grave concern.
The evacuation of arts programming at all levels within our public education system has reached a critical juncture. A quality arts education is essential for the economic prosperity and health of our society. Although the BC government, underscored by the evidence of arts organizations across BC,[xxvii] acknowledges the fundamental importance of the arts for both economic and societal wellbeing, this understanding is not being supported at its most foundational level: our K-12 public education system.[xxviii] Investment in the creative economy begins by giving every child the opportunity to develop their creative and aesthetic potential within a quality, publicly funded education system. If we acknowledge that the arts are fundamental to human flourishing, and that public education should empower students to be creative and compassionate contributors to the building of a healthy, pluralistic and democratic society, we must ensure that quality arts education is financially supported and protected across K-12 public education.
Therefore, to fulfill its responsibility and provide equitable access to a quality arts education as a key element within the K-12 curriculum, we the undersigned, request that the government work to:
ArtStarts in Schools
Families Against Cuts to Education
Nanaimo Parents Supporting Public Education
Parent Advocacy Network for Public Education
Public Education Network Society
Richmond Schools Stand United
Simon Fraser University Arts Education Faculty
Surrey Students Now
Doris Auxier, M.A., M.F.A., Associate Professor of Art and Design
Elizabeth Barnes, Faculty of Fine Arts, Kwantlen Polytechnic University
Marie-France Berard, PhD, Lecturer Art Education, University of British Columbia
Sabine Bitter, Associate Professor, School for the Contemporary Arts, Simon Fraser University
Elizabeth Volpe Bligh, UBC School of Music, VSO School of Music, President West Coast Harp Society, retired principal Harp, Vancouver Symphony
David Brown, President, Vancouver Musician’s Association, member Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, Turning Point Ensemble
Dr. Jessica Bushey, Sessional Instructor, Department of Continuing Studies, University of Victoria
Cyndy Chwelos, Faculty Instructor, Recreation Studies, Langara College
Margaret Chrumka, Executive Director, Kamloops Art Gallery
Daniel Cleland, Board Director, Sarah McLachlan Foundation; Sarah McLachlan School of Music
Leslie Dala, Music Director, Vancouver Bach Choir, Associate Conductor, Vancouver Opera
Dr. Terence Dawson, Chair, Keyboard Division, School of Music, University of British Columbia
Dr. Alex de Cosson, Art Education Department of Curriculum and Pedagogy, University of British Columbia
Dr. Jeff Derksen, Dean Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies, Simon Fraser University
Alexander J. Fisher, Professor of Music, University of British Columbia
Judith Forst, OC, OBC.
Kenneth Friedman, Double Bass Instructor, School of Music, University of British Columbia
Paula Funk, Coordinator, Completion Advising, University of the Fraser Valley
Jesse Adam Garbe, Sessional Instructor Visual Arts, Emily Carr University of Art and Design
Robert Gelineau, Fine Arts Instructor, Kwantlen Polytechnic University
Leila Getz, C. M., O.B.C., D.F.A, Founder and Director, Vancouver Recital Society
Katherine Gillieson, PhD, Associate Professor, Communication Design, Emily Carr University of Art and Design
J. Scott Goble, Ph.D. Associate Professor of Music Education, University of British Columbia
Ana Gomes (Black), BC Artist and Fine Art Instructor, Kwantlen Polytechnic University
Frances Grafton, Sessional Instructor, Emily Carr University of Art and Design
Dr. Wendy Grant, Coordinator, Music Diploma program, Capilano University
Dr. Erica L. Grimm, Associate Professor of Art, School of the Arts, Media + Culture, Trinity Western University
Joshua Hale, Chair and Assistant Professor, Art + Design, School of the Arts, Media + Culture, Trinity Western University
Dr. Keith Hamel, Professor of Composition, School of Music, University of British Columbia
Prof. Nancy Hermiston, O.C., Head, Voice and Opera Divisions and University Marshal, University of British Columbia
Nathan Hesselink, Chair and Professor, Ethnomusicology, University of British Columbia
Jaz Holloran, Sessional Instructor, Communication Design, Design and Dynamic Media, Emily Carr University of Art and Design
Keiko Honda, PhD., MPH, President and Executive Director, Vancouver Arts Colloquium Society
Dr. Rita Irwin, Distinguished University Scholar and Professor, Art Education, University of British Columbia
Gail Johnson, General Manager, Gordon and Marion Smith Foundation for Young Artists
Jaymie Johnson, Sessional Instructor, Emily Carr University of Art and Design
Nané Jordan, Sessional Lecturer, Department of Curriculum and Pedagogy, University of British Columbia
Lizzy Karp, Senior Manager for Distribution, Experiential and Engagement, Telus Storyhive
Richard Kurth, PhD., Professor and Director, School of Music, University of British Columbia
Karen V. Lee, PhD, lecturer and faculty advisor, Faculty of Education, University of British Columbia
Dr. Jillian Lerner, Sessional Instructor, Culture and Community, Emily Carr University of Art and Design
Donald Lawrence, Professor, Department of Visual and Performing Arts, Thompson Rivers University
Christin Reardon MacLellan, Coalition for Music Education in BC
Paul Martin, Producer, Next Level Games Inc.
Pia Massie, Artist, Designer, Scholar in Residence, Culture and Community Faculty, Emily Carr University of Art and Design
Colleen Maybin, Director of Education and Community Engagement, Vancouver Opera
Sarah McLachlan, Board Director, Sarah McLachlan Foundation; Sarah McLachlan School of Music
Julia Nolan, PhD., Saxophone Faculty, Kwantlen Polytechnic University, University of British Columbia
Maria Anna Parolin, Vice President, Burnaby Arts Council; Fine Art Instructor, Kwantlen Polytechnic University
Alec Pearson, Sessional Instructor, University of British Columbia; President, Vancouver Classic Guitar Society
Lorelei Pepi, Associate Professor, Animation, Emily Carr University of Art and Design
Magnolia Pauker, Lecturer, Faculty of Community and Culture, Emily Carr University of Art and Design
Eric Randall, President, Next Level Games Inc.
Helen Reed and Hannah Jickling, Sessional Instructors, Emily Carr University of Art and Design
Bob Rennie, Rennie Foundation
Jayce Salloum, BC Artist, Governor General Award recipient
Alison Shields, Assistant Teaching Professor, Art Education, University of Victoria
Michael Tenzer, Professor and Graduate Advisor, School of Music, University of British Columbia
Bramwell Tovey O.C., Music Director, Vancouver Symphony Orchestra
Cheyanne Turions, Curator and Writer
Lisa Turner, Trustee, Vancouver Art Gallery
Jen Weih, Itinerant Faculty, Emily Carr University of Art and Design
Rita Wong, Associate Professor, Emily Carr University of Art and Design
Tara Wren, Lecturer, Critical and Cultural Studies, Emily Carr University of Art and Design
Hon John Horgan, Premier, BC NDP
Hon Carole James, Minister of Finance and Deputy Premier
Hon Andrew Wilkinson, Leader of the Opposition, BC Liberal Leader
Hon Andrew Weaver, BC Green Leader
Hon Dan Davies, BC Liberal Spokesperson for Education
Hon Mary Polak, BC Liberal Spokesperson for Education
Hon Sonia Furstenau, BC Green Spokesperson for Education
Hon Bob D'Eith, Chair, Select Standing Committee on Finance & Government Services
Hon Dan Ashton, Deputy Chair, Select Standing Committee on Finance & Government Services
Jen Mezei, President, BCCPAC
Gordon Swan, President, BCSTA
Glen Hansman, President, BCTF
Tom Longridge, President, BCSSA
Kevin Reimer, President, BCPVP
Appendix: Supporting EvidenceArts Education is essential for building a healthy, pluralistic and democratic society:Arts Education develops aesthetic and imaginative capacities for human fulfillment
Arts education supports democratic citizenship and promotes intercultural understanding
Arts education promotes mental health and well-being
Arts education respects multiple intelligences and allows for inclusive learning
Arts Education is essential for building a prosperous and sustainable economy:Creativity is a key skill for the 21st century economy
Arts education is key for developing the skill set for creativity and innovation
Arts education is relevant for critical engagement in today’s public communication sphere
The arts and culture sector is an important and growing part of BC’s economy
[i] Preamble, BC School Act http://www.bclaws.ca/civix/document/LOC/complete/statreg/--%20S%20--/05_School%20Act%20%5BRSBC%201996%5D%20c.%20412/00_Act/96412_01.xml
[ii] In the 2015/6 satisfaction survey, only 41% of grade 3/4 students and 33% of Grade 7 students responded with “many times” to the question "At school are you learning about art?" In the same survey, only 53% of grade 3/4 students and 43% of grade 7 students responded “many times” to the question "At school, are you learning about music?” Government of British Columbia, Satisfaction Survey, 2015/16 http://www.bced.gov.bc.ca/reports/pdfs/sat_survey/public.pdf The satisfaction survey of 2016/17 has eliminated these questions and replaced them with “At school, are you learning to be creative?”
[iii] Seoul Agenda: Goals for the Development of Arts Education, 2010 http://www.unesco.org/fileadmin/multimedia/HQ/CLT/CLT/pdf/Seoul_Agenda_EN.pdf
[iv] BC’s New Curriculum https://curriculum.gov.bc.ca/competencies and Hetland, Winner, Veenema, Sheridan, Studio Thinking 2: The Real Benefits of Visual Arts Education, 2013. See also Studio Thinking at Harvard University’s Project Zero, http://www.pz.harvard.edu/projects/the-studio-thinking-project
[v] C21 Shifting Minds: Redefining the Learning Landscape in Canada, C21 Canada, May 2015 http://www.c21canada.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/C21-ShiftingMinds-3.pdf and World Economic Forum, The Future of Jobs: Employment, Skills and Workforce Strategy for the Fourth Industrial Revolution, 2016 and Mariale Hardiman, Susan Magsamen, Guy McKann and Janet Eilber, Neuroeducation: Learning, Arts and the Brain: Findings and Challenges for Educators and Researchers from the 2009 John Hopkins University Summit, The Dana Foundation, 2009 https://www.giarts.org/sites/default/files/Neuroeducation_Learning-Arts-and-the-Brain.pdf
[vi] Winner and Vincent-Pancrin, Art for Art’s Sake? The Impact of Arts Education, OECD, 2013 http://www.oecd.org/education/ceri/arts.htm
[vii] “Poor Innovation Ranking Dims the Light on Canada’s Competitiveness and Prosperity,” Conference Board of Canada, 2012
[viii] Scott McMaster, Visual Literacy and Art Education: A Review of the Literature, 2015 https://www.researchgate.net/publication/280319601_Visual_Literacy_and_Art_Education_Review_of_the_Literature
[ix] Ann Bamford, The Visual Literacy White Paper, Adobe Systems Inc., 2003
[x] Ellen Winner, Goldstein and Vincent Lancrin, Art for Art’s Sake? The Impact of Arts Education, OECD Centre for Educational Research and Innovation, 2013 http://www.oecd.org/edu/ceri/arts.htm; National Endowment for the Arts, The Arts in Early Childhood : Social and Emotional Benefits of Arts Participation, 2015 https://www.arts.gov/art-works/2015/looking-social-and-emotional-benefits-arts; “Everything we know about how and whether the arts Improve our lives;” Create Equity, 2017 http://createquity.com/2016/12/everything-we-know-about-whether-and-how-the-arts-improve-lives/
[xi] Peter Bazalgette, The Empathy Instinct: How to Create a More Civil Society, John Murray Publishers, 2017 and James Catteral, “A Neuroscience of Art and Human Empathy”, (draft) 2011. www.croc-lab.org/uploads/7/9/9/8/7998314/neuroscience-art-empathy.docx ; See also Erica Grimm Vance, "The Aesthetics of Attentiveness: A Philosophy for Artists and Educators", PhD dissertation, SFU, 2015.
[xii] Seoul Agenda: Goals for the Development of Arts Education, 2010 http://www.unesco.org/fileadmin/multimedia/HQ/CLT/CLT/pdf/Seoul_Agenda_EN.pdf
[xiii] Capabilities Approach developed by Amartya Sen and refined by Martha Nussbaum, “Capabilities and Human Rights”, Fordham Law Review 66.2 (1997); http://www.iep.utm.edu/ge-capab/4 and http://www.iep.utm.edu/ge-capab/9
[xiv] United Nations Declaration of Human Rights Article 27; http://www.un.org/en/universal-declaration-human-rights/
[xv] Government of British Columbia, Ministry of Education, First Peoples Principles of Learning https://www2.gov.bc.ca/assets/gov/education/kindergarten-to-grade-12/teach/teaching-tools/aboriginal-education/principles_of_learning.pdf; United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People ratified by Canada in 2016, Article 11 http://www.un.org/esa/socdev/unpfii/documents/DRIPS_en.pdf
[xvi] Truth and Reconciliation Commission: Calls to Action, Item 10.3 http://www.trc.ca/websites/trcinstitution/File/2015/Findings/Calls_to_Action_English2.pdf
[xvii] In Vancouver, the loss of specialized arts education training for elementary teachers in universities, and the loss of specialist positions within elementary schools has decimated the number of arts education teachers with specialization in these areas. Using anecdotal evidence from interviews with former district principals and 2015 statistics, approximately 85% of music specialists and 98% of art specialists in Vancouver have been lost over the last 2 decades. Parent Advocacy Network Answers to Questions on Notice from the Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services, 2015/16. https://drive.google.com/file/d/1cqpz6IkYVvLyYp8vmVncBZ79bQmRKKFd/view According to 2017 a survey of arts teachers in the Vancouver School District, only 30 of the 90 elementary schools in Vancouver have a full-time K-7 music teacher, 27 have part time music teachers and 33 schools have no music teacher. Only 2 elementary schools have a K-7 art teacher for the 2017 school year. Parent Advocacy Network Answers to Questions on Notice from the Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services, 2015/16.
[xviii] No prerequisites in the arts (visual or performing) are required for admission to the teacher accreditation program at UBC http://teach-educ.sites.olt.ubc.ca/files/2017/11/Elementary-Middle-Years-Worksheet-2018.pdf or SFU http://www.sfu.ca/education/teachersed/programs/pdp/admissions-requirements/elementary.html. See also Lisa LaJevic, “Arts Integration: What is Really Happening in the Elementary Classroom”, Journal for Learning through the Arts, 9(1), 2013. http://escholarship.org/uc/item/9qt3n8xt
[xix] In the 2015/6 satisfaction survey, only 41% of grade 3/4 students and 33% of Grade 7 students responded with “many times” to the question "At school are you learning about art?" In the same survey, only 53% of grade 3/4 students and 43% of grade 7 students responded “many times” to the question "At school, are you learning about music?” Government of British Columbia, Satisfaction Survey, 2015/16 http://www.bced.gov.bc.ca/reports/pdfs/sat_survey/public.pdf The satisfaction survey of 2016/17 has eliminated these questions and replaced them with “At school, are you learning to be creative?.
[xx] It is not uncommon for secondary art classes to accommodate 30 students encompassing grades 8-10 within a single class.
[xxi] Prior to 2004, all students had to take electives in a fine and applied arts to grade 10 and then at least one fine and one applied arts elective in the graduating years (11 and 12). Now, students need only take one fine or applied arts elective during the graduation years (10-12). This has reduced the number of required electives for the arts by 75%. Government of British Columbia, Certificate of Graduation – 2004 Graduation Program https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/education-training/k-12/support/graduation/certificate-of-graduation-2004 Since 2018, this has decreased further to only one elective of either arts education 10,11, or 12 and/or Applied Design/skills and technologies 10, 11, or 12. It is therefore possible for students to have zero courses in the arts after grade 9. Government of British Columbia, Certificate of Graduation – 2018 Graduation Program requirements. https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/education-training/k-12/support/graduation/certificate-of-graduation Starting in the 90s, all districts across BC rolled arts specialists into prep time models in order to cut operational expenditures.
[xxii] Government of British Columbia, Ministry Area Standards, 2004. https://www2.gov.bc.ca/assets/gov/education/administration/resource-management/capital-planning/areastandards.pdf
[xxiii] According to Vancouver architects for the SMP, the unit rate for a typical Vancouver school is between 2,200 and 2,500 m2. This is higher than the average provincial unit rate. Two additional rooms of 80m2 each would add at most $400,000 to a construction project. This would be approximately 2% of the cost of the latest project approvals $22.4 and $24.5 million for Begbie and Bayview Elementary, equivalent to the additional cost factor of building on a gradient. Vancouver Courier, “Horgan Promises two Earthquake Proof Schools for Vancouver,” October 11, 2017. http://www.vancourier.com/news/horgan-promises-two-earthquake-proof-schools-for-vancouver-1.23062098 Government of British Columbia. 2015/16 Capitol Plan: Allowances, Rates and Costing Factors Supplement, July 2015 https://www2.gov.bc.ca/assets/gov/education/administration/resource-management/capital-planning/current-resources/2015-16_cpi_supplement.pdf
[xxiv] Parent Advocacy Network for Public Education, in Response to Questions on Notice, September 2016 http://www.panvancouver.ca/uploads/6/7/1/4/67145647/pan_response_to_questions_on_notice_select_standing_committee_oct_2016%5B1%5D.pdf and Table of what PAC fundraising pays for across Province , Appendix to
Presentation to the Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services, 2017 http://www.panvancouver.ca/uploads/6/7/1/4/67145647/20171006_scc_for_budget_2018_19_f.pdf
[xxv] According to First Call, 1 in 5 children still live in poverty in BC. http://still1in5.ca/wp- content/uploads/2017/05/2016-BC-Child-Poverty-Report-Card-Executive-Summary-FirstCall-2017-05.pdf This is higher in urban centres where 22% of children live in poverty. Iglika Ivanova, Working Poor in Metro Vancouver, CCPA, June 2016. Metro Vancouver has the 2nd highest rate of working poor in Canada. 42% of working poor are raising children. The majority are single parents, new or recent immigrants. https://www.policyalternatives.ca/sites/default/files/uploads/publications/BC%20Office/2016/06/CCPA_Working_poverty_full.pdf
[xxvi] This summary of four longitudinal studies found that children from low socio-economic backgrounds with a high arts exposure came close to and sometimes surpassed inequality gaps with children from more affluent backgrounds in test performances, post-secondary attendance, graduation, volunteer work and civic involvement - including political activity. James S. Catterall, Susan A. Dumais and Gillian Hampden-Thompson, The Arts and Achievement in At-Risk Youth: Findings from Four Longitudinal Studies, National Endowment for the Arts, March 2012. http://arts.gov/sites/default/files/Arts-At-Risk-Youth.pdf
[xxvii] Arts Future BC, Presentation to the Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services for the 2008 British Columbia Provincial Government Budget; http://www.artsbc.com/arts-future-bc-report/
[xxviii] “Working closely with the cultural sector, we are promoting the value of creativity, encouraging cooperation, and driving innovation, productivity and entrepreneurship. Growing B.C.’s creative economy is attracting new investment and creating new jobs for British Columbians.” Quoted from Government of British Columbia, Creative Economy, https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/sports-culture/arts-culture/creative-economy
The Parent Advocacy Network is relieved to see a budget that emphasizes childcare and early childhood education and that doesn't explicitly cut education funding. However, we are disappointed that K–12 education funding seems to be only sufficient to maintain the status quo. There are some savings that the boards will be able to keep and spend at their discretion, such as savings from the Next Generation Network implementation and pension over-contributions, but these do not amount to enough to reverse the losses of the last several years. Districts may see some relief through the 50% MSP cut, but how their portion of the new employers’ health tax will be funded is yet to be seen.
This means that boards don’t have much, if any, new/increased funding to restore programs and services (such as fine arts programs, gifted programs, and custodial services) that they have cut in previous years due to the need to balance budgets. It also means that children with special needs will continue to go without the level of Education Assistant time and other services that they deserve in order to fully access the public education system, which is their right, and long waitlists for assessments will continue to delay diagnoses for children who are struggling to keep up.
On the capital side, the playground fund is much appreciated, but it is important to recognize that parents fundraise for much more than just playgrounds: PAN did a survey in 2016 that showed that parents are fundraising for necessities such as fine arts programming, books, and sex education. The budget introduced last week will not reduce schools' need to rely on parents to raise supplemental funds for these items, and it does not address the inequities that result from this situation.
In terms of seismic replacement schools, new schools, and getting children out of portables, we are glad to hear that the government is committed to speeding up its work in these areas; we look forward to not just announcements, but shovels in the ground and children in safe schools.
Today PAN submitted the following to the K–12 Public Education Funding Model Review Committee.
(download pdf which includes footnotes)
Thank you for the opportunity to provide input on the education funding model review. The Parent Advocacy Network for Public Education is a grassroots group of parents who have children in public schools in the Vancouver and Victoria areas; we also have connections with parents across the province. We are writing to highlight issues that we would like to see resolved in whatever the new model may be, as well as questions that will be important for the funding review committee to consider. It is essential to note that, ultimately, the most important factors are the adequacy, predictability, and stability of funding coming from the province. Without these, any funding model will be doomed to fail.
The current funding model puts the onus on districts to decide which programs and schools to fund in their yearly requirement to balance their budgets. Districts have attempted to protect what they consider “core” classroom programs by reducing or cutting altogether items such as education assistant hours, maintenance and custodial services, and music, fine arts, and gifted programs.
This has led to a situation where districts vary in the services and programs offered. Even within districts, schools vary in programming depending on PAC fundraising for items now considered “optional.” Our survey of PAC fundraising demonstrated that PACs subsidize much more than the clichéd playground construction. PAC fundraising pays for music instruction, art instruction, sexual education, classroom supplies, books, art materials, PE equipment, and technology, to name just a few.
Furthermore, as the range of programming offered by schools is reduced, parents and families have to spend increasing amounts of money on items like art instruction, music instruction, and supplies for their individual children. This is in addition to contributing to the funds raised by their PACs. The parents of children who need support but are not considered “highest need”—and therefore do not receive enough or any resource teacher support—spend money on tutoring in basic literacy, reading, and math. High school students increasingly require tutoring because they are taking online courses due to reduced course offerings in school.
The inequities that exist in this situation are stark and alarming. No child’s quality of education should depend on their parents’ ability to fundraise or to outsource educational support. Whether children receive a well-rounded education, which includes exposure to the arts and music, should not depend on which programs the district decides to cut that year.
The effects of budget cuts and increasing inequities have been felt even more severely by students with special needs, as advocacy groups such as BCEdAccess and Inclusion BC have demonstrated.
The absence of specialized arts teachers and dedicated rooms for arts education has been institutionalized in the Area Standards policy, which sets out how new schools will be constructed. The Area Standards policy requires elementary schools to be built without dedicated rooms for the arts and with very little space outside of enrolling classrooms. Dedicated funding for arts education at the elementary level and a change to the Area Standards policy to allow art rooms to be built are necessary in order to reverse the disappearance of fine arts from BC’s elementary schools.
We would like to see the Ministry re-centralize the task of deciding what is necessary and included in a quality public education, fund those programs adequately, and fund them transparently. This would include designating specific funding for specific programs and costs—such as arts instruction, educational assistant time, custodial services, technology—so that money intended for one use cannot be spent for another purpose by the district.
There may also be opportunities to look to other ministries to fund costs that the Ministry of Education currently bears. Many schools perform services that may fall under the purviews of the ministries of Health, Children and Families, and Mental Health and Addictions. By looking for opportunities to use schools as hubs for “wraparound services,” communities will be better served and costs could be borne across ministries.
In short, a successful funding review will include the questions: What is included in a quality public education? How do we make sure educational services are delivered equitably? and What is the role of the school in the community?
The Parent Advocacy Network
As we near the end of the calendar year and are just over 100 days into the current school year, it is a time of reflection in our province. Many will recognize some positive steps made in public education during the year: the Supreme Court of Canada ruling on class size and composition continues to be implemented and funded; seismic projects are being announced with greater frequency; and there is increasing recognition of the value of public education and the undeniable deficiencies still present in a system which has faced chronic deprioritization for 16 years.
But public education isn’t yet the priority it should be, that is, as a societal benefit to all. Parents and families still await long-overdue changes that will make education more accessible and equitable for all learners across the province.
Parent advocacy continues and grassroots parent groups are working together now more than ever. On December 1, 2017, six parent advocacy groups--BCEdAccess, Nanaimo Parents Supporting Public Education, Parent Advocacy Network (incl FACE), Richmond Schools Stand United, Seismic Safety For BC Schools, Surrey Students Now—met with BC Premier John Horgan and Minister of Education Rob Fleming. The representatives of these six groups spoke with Premier Horgan and Minister Fleming about some key issues facing the public education system. Together, the parent representatives made six recommendations to the government.
We thank Premier Horgan and Minister Fleming for taking the time to listen to the collective parent voice, and we look forward to more such meetings in the future. Our recommendations are only the beginning of many changes that are required to provide a quality, equitable public education to all the children in our province. The Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services has also made some strong recommendations for public education funding in the 2018 Budget. We encourage the government to view our recommendations and the Committee’s recommendations as important steps on the road to building the public education system that BC’s children deserve.
About Our Non-Partisan Organizations
BCEdAccess has over 1250 parent members, from all over BC, and we are growing every day. Our mandate as grassroots volunteers is to advocate publicly for equitable access to education for students with special needs, and to provide their parents with support, education and training around that right.
Nanaimo Parents Supporting Public Education is an organization formed by parents concerned about the chronic underfunding of public education in BC and the effects it has on the quality of our children's education. We work to bring attention and awareness to issues within our public education system both locally and provincially.
The Parent Advocacy Network is a collective of parents and community members who share a commitment to public education. We work to address the devaluing of public education in Vancouver and across BC by holding government accountable and helping effect policy changes.
Richmond Schools Stand United is a parent-led group advocating for safe schools and equitable access to public education across our city and the province.
Seismic Safety For BC Schools is an advocacy group committed to ensuring all schools in BC are earthquake safe.
Surrey Students Now is a group composed of parents concerned for the education of the community’s children.
PAN is supporting the great work of our partners at the BC Poverty Reduction Coalition (BCPRC). Please join us and speak up on the issue of raising the minimum wage to $15/hour. Now is the opportunity to Tell the Fair Wages Commission it is Time for $15/hr in BC!
Organizations and individuals are invited to provide feedback to the commission by email – use the BCFed’s tool to send a quick email: http://www.fightfor15bc.ca/fairwages by December 7, 2017.
More details about meeting dates and locations, and how to make a written submission, are available at: engage.gov.bc.ca/fairwagescommission
Together we can!
On Friday, October 6th, we made our third annual presentation to the Legislative Finance Committee (Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services) highlighting public education funding needs for BC Budget 2018.
In it, we called on government to fulfill its commitment to British Columbians:
Read our full report, presented by Maggie Milne Martens and Heather Legal.
Make your own report or complete a survey on your thoughts for BC Budget 2018 by 5pm on October 16th.
UPDATE: Other presentations supporting public education:
UPDATE: Our follow-up to the Selection Standing Committee questions submitted October 16, 2017
The Parent Advocacy Network (PAN) encourages all citizens of Vancouver to exercise their democratic right to vote in the October 14th Vancouver by-election. Voters need to elect one Councillor and nine Trustees to the Vancouver Board of Education for a one year term.
It’s important to learn about ALL the candidates to make an informed choice; not just about their platforms and experience, but who they are and how they plan to effect change.
Two all-candidates forums were held earlier this week - one by Institute for Public Education and one by Vancouver DPAC. If you missed both, you are in luck as DPAC recorded theirs. Watch it.
Of the 19 trustee candidates, some are running as independents, some with existing political parties. Some names are familiar, some are less known. To support voters, PAN asked all of them the same 6 questions and their answers (or lack of response) are below.
Remember to VOTE! Advanced Voting is October 4 and 10 at City Hall. Voting Day is October 14th. Details at City of Vancouver
Complete set of answers
1. What skills would you bring to a trustee position and why should Vancouverites vote for you as an individual (leaving aside party affiliation)?
2. If elected, how will you promote an atmosphere of collaboration with advisor Dianne Turner, senior staff, and Board members from other political parties?
3. As an elected trustee, how would you envision the role of parent input with respect to decision making?
4. Explain your perspective on how the Board should work going forward with the provincial Ministry of Education.
5. What is your view on how the Board should work going forward with the City of Vancouver (i.e. in addressing the intertwined issues of densification and available school space)?
6. What do you see as the top three most urgent and important issues facing the Vancouver School Board, and how do you plan to address these?
On September 25, 2017 we sent the following letter to the Honourable Rob Fleming, Minister of Education, Scott MacDonald, Deputy Minister of Education and Dave Duerkson, Executive Director, Legislation, Policy & Governance Branch asking for some government actions to help attract and retain teachers. (download pdf)
The province of British Columbia currently faces an unprecedented public education staffing crisis: the overall system is short some 1000 teachers. In Vancouver alone, as of the third week of September, there are the equivalent of 53 full-time teacher positions (72 positions overall) still unfilled. Recent hiring in Vancouver have already drawn on seconded district staff, support staff, and even retired teachers, suggesting the actual number of additional teachers required for sustainable public education school operations is far greater. These positions are at the frontline of the provision of K-12 education within our public system.
Students and families are being adversely affected by this staffing crisis. Across the province there are students in classrooms who do not have a full-time teacher; students with learning challenges are losing resource time; and some special needs students are being told to stay home in the absence of supports; and parents who have to deal with the fallout of circumstances affecting their children while juggling their existing parental and employment commitments.
While understanding the exceptional circumstances of implementing the Memorandum of Agreement resulting from last year’s Supreme Court ruling, the Parent Advocacy Network (PAN) strongly urges the Ministry of Education to take further immediate action in creative short-term measures to enable the necessary recruitment of additional qualified professional teachers.
Given the near certainty that all in-province qualified applicants have already been placed, out-of-province and internationally qualified teachers must be aggressively targeted.
We ask you to consider the following one-time actions to this end:
A secure and sustainable quality public education system is essential for the future of our province and our children, and this depends on sufficient numbers of qualified teachers. It is imperative that the Ministry work quickly and diligently to recruit additional qualified, professional teachers from out of province and international pools to ensure that all open teacher positions are filled as quickly as possible.
The Parent Advocacy Network
There will be a by-election in Vancouver on October 14th to elect nine Trustees to the Vancouver Board of Education for a one year term.
There are 19 individuals who’ve put their names forward as candidates. Some are running as independents, some with existing political parties. Some names are familiar, some are less known.
The Parent Advocacy Network (PAN) believes citizens of Vancouver, especially parents of school-aged children, should cast a vote in the by-election. We also believe voters should do their due diligence and get informed about all the candidates to make an informed choice; informed about both the candidates’ platforms and experience, but also important is who they are and how they plan to effect change.
We are asking all 19 candidates these 6 questions and we will post their answers – DUE BY October 1, 2017 – (or their lack of response) on our website by October 4th to help voters make an informed choice.
Questions for Trustee Candidates
PAN updates and news, partner events, and other timely information relating to public school advocacy in and around Vancouver, BC.