Vision school board chair suggests Education Minister should resign

Post by Mike Klassen in

24 comments

patti-bacchus
The ever upbeat VSB School Board chair Patti Bacchus lashes out at Victoria

Vancouver is in a tough spot relative to schools these days, thanks to rapidly changing demographics and other self-destructive factors. Our very good school system is being pulled seven ways to Sunday by a variety of factors. Some school superintendents, trustees and administrators are working very hard to reform school districts to adapt to these changes. However, the province's 2nd largest school district seems to be lumbering into the future like a super tanker headed toward a rocky shoal.

Tonight on GlobalTV, Vancouver School Board chair made the following statement:

It is irresponsible for the Minister of Education to claim that school districts have the funding they need to provide their services. She is either deliberately misleading the public, or she doesn't understand basic numbers. In either case she might need to think about resigning if that's what she's doing.

Now, let's ask ourselves for a minute whether Dr. Margaret MacDiarmid, a general practitioner and our Minister of Education, might have some issues appreciating basic math. Common sense might suggest that Dr. MacDiarmid's math skills are a little sharper than Ms. Bacchus' education in poli-sci and public relations might provide. By any calculation it adds up to a cheap shot, and Patti ought to know better.

Ladies and gents, it's time we all pull back from this ridiculous rhetoric, and a fight over funding being waged on the six o'clock news. The school boards, the BCTF (who are juicing up this fight with their usual inflammatory anti-government strategies), district staff and the province all must sit down and figure this one out. Minister MacDiarmid is correct in suggesting that it is up to school boards to make the tough decisions. So far we've heard only complaints and no constructive ideas, so perhaps it's time to start.

Nobody I know wants a more robust, sustainable local public education system than me. However, what I see are silos where no one has the ability to think outside the box. This Texas standoff between management and unions cannot continue. Unions that suppress dialogue among their members cannot be considered credible representatives. Districts who are not facing the facts about declining enrollment (and it's serious, folks) must either step up or be overruled by the province. School board chairs who wage Jihads on senior levels of government during the six o'clock news must stand down.

Some school boards, such as Vancouver seems to be doing, are beating the drums for more cash. The money simply DOES NOT EXIST. The well is dry. The government has increased per student funding, while the numbers of kids entering schools in most districts is plummeting. Something has to give.

There are very good ideas out there that must be openly debated, such as:

  • How are districts structured and are they top-heavy with management? When is the last time we heard of a re-structuring or a significant change in staffing levels among district administrators?
  • Where is the "community of schools" plan that proposes that schools serve as community hubs for after hours sport, adult education and other community needs? Given the lack of dollars for new community amenities, a win-win might be staring us in the face.
  • Why are schools forbidden to promote themselves, and why can't the public system invest in marketing itself in the face of enormous marketing (and whisper) campaigns in favour of private institutions?
  • Why are schools, parks and cities unable to connect on matters of land use planning more effectively?
  • Do we need as many school principals and vice-principals as we do for schools with less kids?
  • Why aren't we talking seriously about the closure of underpopulated schools? My child attends an annex that drops in enrollment every year, despite of the best efforts of our community to promote it. Eventually we must all have the hard talk about priorities for our kids and neighbourhoods, and the VSB leadership just isn't engaging parents (apart from political supporters) in this discussion.
  • Why aren't unions such as CUPE proposing that inside and outside workers learn to multi-task, or be more flexible on items such as facilities or grounds maintenance? I did summer work back in university for school boards, and know that there is a lot of room for improvement and cost efficiency.

There are so many good ideas out there that are not being put on the table for discussion. Instead, we seem to be caught in this vicious cycle of bickering between BCTF contracts and Ministry budgets. Read the papers, gang. The economy is flat, industries are struggling, costs are rising and the infrastructure is aging.

Something's got to give, and I hope it's the stubbornness of stakeholders.

24 Comments

Those folks with a lip-lock on the public teat never want to compromise on their entitlements because they, especially the Unionized "they", believe they are fully entitled to their entitlements and must have more of them.

Doesn't matter where the money comes from . . . that is "governments" problem.

Socialists love other people's money.

In a recent discussion with Rick Cluff on CBC's Early Edition about the increasing number of children living downtown, Cluff wanted to know who was to blame for there not being more children...the developers or the planners. I responded that neither was to blame; the problem was the need for new schools, noting sites had been set aside in both Coal Harbour and around False Creek. I blamed the School Board.

I subsequently got a phone call from the School Board's communication manager, pointing out that it wasn't the School Board's fault...it was the province's fault since it wasn't providing the required funds. I acknowledged that maybe I was wrong.

The next day, I heard Larry Beasley make the same mistake on the same show.

But this has got me thinking. When I was the federal government's project cooridinator for Toronto's St. Lawrence Project, I was surprised to learn that the new schools were being built UNDER the housing. Maybe one opportunity to generate more revenues for the Vancouver School Board, and others, would be to allow new market housing developments to help subsidize new schools through joint site development. There is a condominium development as part of the School Board's Head Office development near Broadway...maybe there are some other school properties where this would work.

Just a thought.

"The ever upbeat VSB School Board chair Patti Bacchus lashes out at Victoria"

No one ever won concessions or favors by bashing the hand that feeds you. But then you have to wonder what Bacchus was hoping to achieve.

Why do NDP/BCTF trustees feel the way to get more money out of the BC Liberals is to attack them. First Lori Watt in New Westminster attends an anti-Gordon Campbell event, now Bacchus attacks education minister. As each day passes, we're starting to peel back the layers of the onion to discover what vision is all about. Too bad the mainstream media are so in love with them. If they weren't, they wouldn't get away with so much.

@J Cobb The board chair is no doubt frustrated, but so is every other group or government agency out there who relies upon provincial funding. They are all being asked to make sacrifices, but the problem is that the schools are locked into very generous contracts with workers right into 2012. This includes some very healthy pension benefits that boards are going to have to pay while they cut other programs.

I have much more learning to do about where money is allocated to education, but I'm always surprised to learn how much we spend on special immersion programs and how much funding goes to private institutions. A more wide open core review is probably needed at this point, if only to give parents the confidence in the system moving forward.

You're absolutely right that biting the hand that feeds is a lousy strategy, even if your election campaign is full of donations from labour groups looking to pick fights with the BC Liberals.

@Michael Geller Coordinating more development and planning between these various bureaucracies is a welcome idea. I heard Raymond Louie blaming the NPA for the crammed schools in Yaletown the other day – so there's a lot of fingers being pointed. The fact is that we need more density throughout the city to allow people to live and prosper in Vancouver, and schools are a critical part of that plan.

Gee, who bargained and signed the underfunded contracts, then added the gas tax and HST, plus mainstreamed unsupported special needs kids into the system.

Maybe before you write you should do some research regarding the government's funding practices. The reality is that lifts have not covered bargained costs and new taxes for several years. And it isn't MacDiarmid (and which one of you worked her campaign?) who does the math around there. Gordon does.

Last, the Yaletown school could have been paid several times over by the increasingly dodgy looking casino deal. But the NPA signed away all city amenities on that one and the BC Liberals are pouring it all into a roof that's 50% over budget, because the Lions and Paragon are a bigger priority. A different deal with different priorities would have brought better amenities, including the school. Take some credit where you deserve it.

Gotta ask. Has the VSB ever not had a budget problem? Didn't they snipe at the NDP too?
You wonder if people in this element of society (educational field) are so caught up in what is fair they don't realize the world is not fair and you don't succeed by crying for more. You succeed by acheiving a task with given resources and those who can do more with less tend to rise to the top.
I gotta say though, I wish whomever is in government would eliminate Health care premiums. Would make us more competitive much the way they say the HST will. Would save employers like VSB much cash.

Nothing changes, the ideological war continues in the trenches, Vancouver, New Westminster, all over, kids become pawns in the attempt to take on the Province.
The real opposition is Jim Sinclair, who tolerates Carole James.
Ideological commitment to out-dated class warfare,nothing ever changes.

Ian,

Where was Raymond Louie and the rest of your Vision team when the details for Yaletown were being worked out?

I believe he was busy lunching on a yacht with some developers himself. I'm sure the folks in the Westend and some other neighborhoods in the city are wondering how exactly your boy sold out their interests as well over the years.

But of course YOUR selective details are more factual than others'.

Yeah right. Go back to your Vision PR 101 class.

Yes a resignation would be in order. But not the Minister's. Rather Mme Bacchus should resign for her very poor management and leadership skills. The children deserve better.

This is looking like bad rerun of last COPE/Vision Council. Always fighting with senior governments and getting nothing done. Maybe the school board Chair needs a week in Hollyhock to settle down and get in touch with herself.

@bobhawkins

I absolutely agree. The politically inspired braying does the kids no favors.

Glen,
The decision to forgo development levies on the BC Place Redevelopment was made in the dying days of the last (NPA)Council. Here's what Frances Bula had to say about that decision: "the fact remains that the city has foregone some revenue to help pay for stadium repairs. The question for all of you: Do you think it's worth it?"

Raymond Louie, correctly in my mind, voted against what was fundamentally a gift to a senior government with far deeper pockets. Cast aside the ideological posturing; it was a stupid deal from a city perspective.

Ian,

Changing some of the wording on your post below regarding development cost levies...

The decision to forgo development levies in Council's Short Term Incentives for Rental Program was made in June 2009 with Vision in power.

The fact remains that the city has foregone some revenue so developers like Westbank and Millenium could get some kickback for building market rate apartment buildings. Renters will pay a premium for apartment units share with tax payers the offset cost burden. The question for all of you: Do you think it's worth it?

Raymond Louie, incorrectly in my mind, voted for what was fundamentally a gift to Vancouver developers with deep pockets and greasy palms.

Cast aside the ideological posturing; it was a stupid deal from a city perspective; yet again.

Pot, kettle, black. Ends don't justify means no matter who's slicing. And as a swing voter who's never participated in civic politics prior, not interested in Vision moral equivalency.

Dennis, that's called sophistry.
And it's not very good sophistry as it doesn't do a very good job of hiding its logical inadequacy.

Obviously, the issue is different and on that basis the debate is different. On the one hand you folks believe its good public policy to give up development levies that provide civic facilities to build a gambling facility. Vision doesn't. On the other Vision believes its a good idea to give up development levies to build market based rental housing. The NPA doesn't.

The question to ask in the second instance is "will this incentive help create rental housing and is that a good thing?"

At least one NPA council candidate thought it would increase affordable housing and he believed this was a good thing. Michael Geller even included it in his list of 10 ideas to increase affordable housing in the city: "To encourage more rental and other forms of affordable housing, municipalities can offer incentives such as density bonuses, reduced or deferred fees and development levies or simply fast-track reviews."

Of course the other question to ask is "is it better to mess with development levies to build a gambling facility or affordable housing? I guess the new NPA opts for the casino. With the new NPA you spin the wheel, you really take your chances.

Ian,

How is it when Vision gives up development cost levies to build expensive market based rental apartments, you fail to acknowledge this too goes to provide civic facilities?

In case it was missed below, I'll repeat, "not interested in Vision moral equivalency."

But please keep on mischaracterizing what you like, especially the part of "you folks" if you wish - every little wrong assumption will lead to Vision's undoing if that's how it's to play out.

Daniel, I did acknowledge that Vision gave up the levies to encourage rental construction.

Once again here is the moral equivalency question as you call it: which is better for the public good - giving up the levies to build a casino and an over budget BC Place roof that is the responsibility of the Provincial Government to fund or giving up the levies to increase the supply of rental housing, as urged by people like Michael Geller?

You picked the casino. I pick rental housing.

Ian, time to get off your high horse. BC Place, love it or hate it, is a huge public amenity that will be hosting sports, entertainment events and conventions. There are a number of reasons for retrofitting the existing facility, but the main one is cost. Vancouver also does not want to lose BC Place, nor the economic benefits that will follow from it. Other cities in the region would love to have this facility. This is not about a "casino" because no one of any political stripe is questioning whether we keep a casino on that property - that decision was made a few councils back. The question is how to we upgrade the facility for the least impact upon taxpayers? Lift on that property, and casino revenues is how we do it.

The market rental being built by the city through a deal with Millennium is the same kind of deal making between a government and a developer as BC Place. The one big difference is how much the city as a whole will benefit from the market housing. Note that market rental units built by the city at One Kingsway remain un-rented, in spite of being in a great location and within a beautiful, amenity-rich new facility.

Dennis is right. Pot. Kettle. Black.

I predicted during the last civic election that Patti Bacchus would only be effective if she lost the role of chief local NDP lickspittle.

Apparently, this was lost on Patti as she continued to fail the very people she claims to want to protect.

There are ways of communicating a message, this wasn't one of them Patti.

But then again, this is the same Patti Bacchus who militantly marched in an illegal BCTF walk out some years ago.

The same Patti Bacchus who support propagandizing children in schools.

The same Patti Bacchus that considers private schools pure evil.

She should have never been made Chair. She clealy would be more comfortable on the militant end of the NDP bench in Victoria.

"I heard Raymond Louie blaming the NPA for the crammed schools in Yaletown the other day..."

Is this the same Raymond Louie who is pushing STIR projects in the West End, with "family-oriented units," even though there is no current school capacity in the neighbourhood?

You speak the truth my brother. Louie and company are complaining about the roof on BC place, while at the same time their STIR program is shoving tonnes of new density in the west end without any new amenities. Can you say hypocrisy? Nothing new from this vision crew.

Geez Mike, did T Richard Turner call you too? Or maybe you missed the story. As Minister Kreuger said in the house Turner told him the deal was dead without the more expensive roof. The $200 million overrun roof. And Brian Parfitt nails it in the Sun today: they need the expensive roof because air locks won't work for their design. We're paying for a roof that works for the casino, not sports fans. Deal with it.

Are you sure that that is a picture of Patti Bacchus? It sure looks like Rosie O'Donnell to me. Complete with a chip on her shoulder.

It's not just Vision challenging the government... here's what long-time NPA Trustee Ken Denike said last night on Global.

Ken Denike (Trustee, VSB): I think the ministry could have understood fairly quickly that some of these things were going to happen.

I'm not sure that they're aware of the way it's going to play out.

And, this is why I don't think they understand the operations.

There's a disconnect here between the budgets, the allocations, and the method in which they're allocated.

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