Fired Vancouver school board trustee speaks at KPU

Patti Bacchus, one of nine Vancouver School Board trustees fired in October 2016 by Education Minister Mike Bernier for not passing a balanced budget, was at Kwantlen to talk about education issues.

The school trustees were fired after rejecting $25 million in budget cuts and the possible closure of 11 schools in the city.

Bacchus was elected with the Vision Vancouver slate in 2008 and had been fighting Christy Clarke’s Liberals over budget cuts. She said the cuts and the possibility of school closures were too much for her and the parents that she was representing.

During an interview, Bacchus was asked how she felt about public money being directed to private schools and whether this money would have been beneficial to the VSB. She said that that money would have been beneficial, but would not have covered the immediate problems. Many of the schools in Vancouver are either dilapidated or facing concerns, such  failing to meet regulations and building codes.

Independent schools receive anywhere between 35 and 50 per cent per student funding when compared to public schools, but private schools receive no funding for capital spending, construction or maintenance of facilities. Bacchus said that if the government were to cut funding for all private institutions, it would be smaller independent and religious schools that would be forced to close. Those students whose parents now can’t afford to send them to those institutions would migrate into public schools, where the government would cover the full cost of that student and thus spend more.

Bacchus said it pains her to drive past elite schools such as St. George School for boys in Vancouver, where tuition is $20,000 a year, and then see schools that are struggling to find funding for textbooks. She said she would love to see funding directed to schools or school districts that need it the most. Bacchus said while she may not be in a favor of a complete overhaul of private schools receiving government funding, she is against private schools advising parents on how to claim tuition on their taxes.

Pete McMartin from the Vancouver Sun did an investigative piece revealing that religious-based schools that receive a charitable tax number were issuing tax receipts for deductions on tuition fees.

Revenue Canada does not categorize lunch, recess and after-school activities as education at private schools and thus Revenue Canada grants $3,600 in annual child-care deductions that can be received until the child is 16. The National Observer obtained a letter sent to parents by St. Georges School for boys advising them on this process, which inevitably Christy Clarke received, as her son attends this school.

Bacchus said that as much as she would love to see more funding for all school boards, she would much rather see facilities being up to proper safety standards first. Bacchus then said all provincial political parties usually avoid this discussion as B.C. has the largest number of private schools in Canada, and this issue could impede their chances for re-election.

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