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Lack of programs and safety concerns highlighted during rallies against education funding cuts

VANCOUVER (NEWS1130) – A strong, yet familiar message is being sent to the province.

Rallies were held across the province today against funding cuts to the public education system.

School boards have been asked to find tens of millions of dollars in administrative costs that can be eliminated.

Jing Wang is a Grade 12 student in Vancouver and says while programs are disappearing, schools are falling apart. “That doesn’t even become an education issue, it’s purely health and safety. I’ve seen in my own secondary school, tiles falling from the ceiling.”

Wang says she has a special request for Premier Christy Clark and Education Minister Peter Fassbender. “I want them to look a kindergartner in the eye and say ‘These opportunities this Grade 12 student has had, you’re going to have them too. We’ll give you the funding to do those things because you deserve them as much as she did.'”

Marlene Rodgers with the group Families Against Cuts to Education echoes those concerns. “If you go to a Tumblr site called Fix BC Ed, you can see photographs of schools with broken windows, outdated bathrooms that are dirty and crumbling, there’s a myriad of things. What’s so important are the seismic upgrades.”

She says with an $800-million surplus, there’s no reason for those upgrades not to be completed.

Rodgers adds the numbers show a major disconnect. “Private schools got an increase of $30-million this year, whereas public schools got a $29-million decrease to administrative funds as well as a $40-million decrease to capital funding.”

Education Minister Peter Fassbender doesn’t agree that the system is underfunded, and says schools deal with many of the same financial pressures we all face. “I appreciate the fact that we have a lot of work to do with the increases in hydro and those things. That’s why we’re looking for those kinds of administrative structural changes that will ensure we free up as many dollars as possible to go into the classroom.”

Fassbender says what he calls “back-office” administrative services can be consolidated, and he’s willing to work with the school districts to find those efficiencies.