Education Minister needs to brush up on his homework

Minister’s comments out of touch with $5.9 billion budget reality
Dan Davies

I was amused to read the recent op-ed by NDP Education Minister Rob Fleming, and as a teacher I was tempted to keep reaching for the red marker to correct it.

The minister painted a bleak picture, one that suggested our system was underfunded and our students were failing and falling behind. It’s important for parents to know the facts and put simply, British Columbia has one of the best education systems in the world.

It’s been two months since the NDP took power and so far all we’ve seen are ministers out in the media criticizing our past decisions, when what they should be doing is telling British Columbians what their plans are for the future.

Repackaging and taking credit for a $2-million-dollar teacher recruitment fund that was announced last spring is not only lazy, it’s dishonest with British Columbians. The NDP say B.C. voted for change, but they have yet to tell us what their plans are to be that change.

Another example of the NDP’s defensive approach to governing can be seen as the minister suggests we “neglected to keep our schools up to standard” and have “not kept up on seismic upgrades.” We all want to know our children are safe when we drop them off at school. It’s truly disappointing he is using his public platform to needlessly frighten parents, when the facts tells a different story.

Since the launch of the Seismic Mitigation Program in 2004, we spent $1.5 billion completing 164 high-risk school seismic projects. There are 64 seismic upgrades currently underway, most of them in the Lower Mainland. February’s Budget 2017 commits $2 billion over the next three years to maintain and replace schools, with a focus on growing communities like Surrey and continuing to seismically upgrade schools. I don’t see where any of those numbers add up to “neglect”.

Next week, the NDP government is introducing a speech from the throne and a budget. I think it’s important to make sure British Columbians hold them to account for all the campaign promises they made – especially the ones meant to benefit our children.

Dan Davies is the BC Liberal MLA for Peace River North and a former teacher in School District 60.