Election issues: Education

By Jill Sperling
May 3, 2017 - 2:48pm Updated: May 3, 2017 - 6:30pm

KAMLOOPS — The province is in a state of transition when it comes to its educational system. 

A Supreme Court of Canada decision has classroom size and composition returning to 2002 levels, and teachers are now implementing a new curriculum. 

As the election looms near the local candidates are making plans to ensure students have access to the best possible education, from Kindergarten, all the way through post-secondary. 

"We've had an entire generation of kids that have grown up not feeling supported, and not getting everything they need to succeed," said Kamloops-North Thompson NDP candidate Barb Nederpel. 

In 2002, the Liberal government introduced legislation that prevented teachers from bargaining class size and composition. 

Last year, the Supreme Court ruled that law was unconstitutional. 

"We added another $700 million to our last budget for the K-12 system, and that allows for fully funding the recent reinstatement of class size and composition requirements," Kamloops-South Thompson Liberal candidate Todd Stone said. "So we're going to see a whole bunch of additional teachers hired across the province, including here in Kamloops, as well as the additional supports in the classrooms." 

The BC NDP promises to provide resources over and above the Supreme Court ruling. 

"It may seem like small things, but the NDP is committed to funding playground equipment," Kamloops-South Thompson NDP candidate Nancy Bepple said. "Kids need to play, kids need to be outside. The NDP is committed to paying for school supplies." 

Then there's the promised investments into post-secondary education. 

Kamloops-North Thompson Liberal candidate Peter Milobar touts capital investments and future expansion of programs offered at TRU.

"We're seeing the expansion of the trades building, we're seeing the expansion of the nursing program, and we're going to keep working with TRU trying to meet their needs as they want to continue to grow as the first class educational institution they are," Milobar said.

Bepple says the cost of a university education has become too expensive for many students. 

"The BC NDP is first of all committed to putting a cap on tuition fee increases," Bepple said, adding, "we are committed to having a zero per cent student loan interest."

The BC Communist Party wants to take it one step further, eliminating tuition fees altogether. 

"When people ... know that they've been supported by their community, not just through public education K-12, but through post-secondary education, they've received that education for free, supported by their communities, they're a lot more likely to stay in those communities," Kamloops-North Thompson Communist Party candidate Peter Kerek said. 

Kamloops-North Thompson Green Party candidate Dan Hines claims "the Greens have the best education platform by far of all the three (major) parties."

That platform includes increasing public school funding from $250 million to $1.5 billion over four years, and making significant investments into training teachers for the new B.C. curriculum. 

The party also plans to implement needs based grants for post-secondary students.

"It's a major influx of not just new money, and more money into the education system," Hines said, "but I think it's a reconsideration of the value of early childhood education, about teacher training and mentoring, and about really dealing with the tuition crisis in post-secondary." 

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