4. REVEALING ADVERSE TRENDS IN PUBLIC EDUCATION (April 12, 2016)

From: Julee Kaye
Sent: April-12-16 7:55 PM

To: ‘educ.minister@gov.bc.ca’; ‘mike.lombardi@vsb.bc.ca’;
‘allan.wong@vsb.bc.ca’; ‘Janet.fraser@vsb.bc.ca’;
‘fraser.ballantyne@vsb.bc.ca’; ‘christopher.richardson@vsb.bc.ca’;
‘patti.bacchus@vsb.bc.ca’; ‘joy.alexander@vsb.bc.ca’;
‘penny.noble@vsb.bc.ca’; ‘stacy.robertson@vsb.bc.ca’;
‘david.eby.MLA@leg.bc.ca’; ‘andrew.wilkinson.MLA@leg.bc.ca’;
‘communications@vsb.bc.ca’; ‘nbrennan@vsb.bc.ca’; ‘jpearce@vsb.bc.ca’;
‘jstewart@vsb.bc.ca’

Subject: RE: 4. REVEALING ADVERSE TRENDS IN PUBLIC EDUCATION

To VSB’s trustees & Superintendents, our Minister of Education, and my local
MLAs:

As promised yesterday, I will here consider recent declines in public school
enrolment and the reasons for those declines.

First, please dispense with any lingering notion that VSB school enrolment
declines can be attributed to falling numbers of children are residing in
the city. The Canadian census data, collected every 5 years, show that there
were sixty-seven thousand school-aged children living in Vancouver in 2001,
sixty-eight thousand in 2006, and sixty-six thousand in 2011 (1). In that
same 10 year period, VSB enrolment fell by over 5,000 students according to
their own enrolment data as posted in June 2013 (2).

Curiously, the VSB has removed that historic enrolment data from their
website sometime in the last 2 years (though the approximate numbers may
still be seen in the graphs provided in other reports online (3)). The only
VSB enrolment data that I can locate now is provided by the Ministry of
Education and only for the last 5 years. Even more curiously, the Ministry’s
current data bear little resemblance to the data that the VSB had previously
posted! Where the VSB used to report that they had a ‘headcount’ of only
51,642 students in 2011, MoE currently lists the VSB’s 2011 enrolment
headcount at 58,003 students (4) !

Surely all of us whose children’s education is at stake – indeed, all BC
taxpayers – cannot help but be dismayed that our authorities hold such
wildly disparate estimates of the number of enrolled students. Any decisions
about closing schools should take into account future enrolment projections,
and accurate enrolment projections necessarily require starting from an
accurate count of current enrolment! Please ask your staff to reconcile
these numbers.

Because there exist such different estimates of the number of VSB students,
it is possible to calculate a range of estimates for the percentage of
Vancouver school children in public schools. If we use the VSB’s 2013 data
set with the most up-to-date Canadian census data, we see that the
percentage fell from 81% of children in public schools in 2001 to only 76%
by 2012. Using the MoE data set with the same census data suggests that the
percentage fell from 88% in 2011 to 80% just 4 years later. THUS THE BEST
AVAILABLE DATA SUGGEST THAT AT LEAST ONE IN FIVE VANCOUVER CHILDREN IS NOW
ENROLLED IN PRIVATE SCHOOLS.

Can we still pride ourselves on our public education system when at least 1
in 5 children have forsaken it? If the public who support you were aware of
this number, would they still be comfortable that we are providing equal
access to quality education for all children?

Clearly a great number of parents have lost faith in the public school
system. Sadly, the problem cannot be solved until the VSB acknowledges that
it exists. I ask of our trustees and administrators that you please
publicise your inability to retain students rather than conceal the problem.

Incidentally, the situation in Vancouver mirrors the situation in the
province as a whole, except perhaps that private schools are more readily
accessible in urban areas. According to data tabulated by the Federation of
Independent School Associations of BC, between 2001 and 2015 the number of
children in BC public schools fell by 72,000 students while private school
enrolment grew by 20,000 students (a 33% increase; (5)).

I use 2001 as a baseline because that is the year that Christy Clark first
became Minister of Education, and also the year that she and I gave birth to
our first children. Our boys are now in grade 9, and Christy’s Liberal party
has governed BC’s public schools throughout their lifetimes. Unlike me,
however, Christy has been protected from the consequences of her
government’s education policies by having her son always enrolled in private
schools. Prolonged contract disputes and slow seismic safety programs have
no direct impact on her.

Is the Liberals’ primary goal for BC’s public schools to make them cheaper?
The MoE response to that claim is always to suggest that funding levels are
higher than ever. The BCTF’s response is that more costs have been passed on
to school boards than ever. Neither side has treated the public with respect
in the debate.

The reality that I have seen during now 10 years exposure to VSB schools is
that every year there is less of something good – fewer librarians, less
enrichment, less administrative support in schools, lower thermostats, less
cleaning, reduced care of school yards, no access to music/flex rooms, etc.
Dedicated staff were able to reduce the impact of the cuts at first, but
everyone now is becoming disillusioned and disheartened.

Even worse, every year tens of thousands of children and staff must continue
to risk their lives in unsafe and flagrantly dilapidated schools long after
the Liberals promised to remediate them (7). Does Christy ever imagine the
horror of saying “Good-bye” to your children in the schoolyard knowing that
if there is an earthquake that day they are expected to be crushed beneath
three stories of brick held up with powder-dry mortar? I and so many others
have done it, and we will have to do it again next year and for the
foreseeable future, and I tell you it is a cruel thing to do to parents.

So it is no surprise that so many Vancouver families are fleeing to private
schools. HOWEVER, WE THE REMAINING VSB FAMILIES CALL ON YOU ALL TO WORK
TOGETHER TO REVERSE THE DAMAGE! Restore the programs that have been cut,
deal with the unsafe schools, thereby staunch the flood of negative press,
and you may yet see a mass of children return to the public system.

Thank you for your efforts.
Julee Kaye

(1) population size of 5-17 year olds by school district for each year
is readily obtained from BC Stats at this link:

http://www.bcstats.gov.bc.ca/StatisticsBySubject/Demography/PopulationEstima
tes.aspx
I have faith in these data because the BC stats estimate at
the link above for 5-17 year olds in the Vancouver Health Service Delivery
Area in 2011 exactly matches the Canadian census number for that figure at
the following link:

https://www12.statcan.gc.ca/census-recensement/2011/dp-pd/prof/details/page.
cfm?Lang=E&Geo1=HR&Code1=5932&Geo2=PR&Code2=01&Data=Count&SearchText=Vancouv
er%20Health%20Service%20Delivery%20Area&SearchType=Begins&SearchPR=01&B1=All
&GeoLevel=PR&GeoCode=5932&TABID=1

(2) Based on the historic enrolment data that were collected from the
following link in June 2013 but which the VSB has since removed:
http://www.vsb.bc.ca/population-and-enrolment-trends

(3)
https://www.vsb.bc.ca/sites/default/files/12Dec10)op_commI_agenda_item1.pdf,
which is amusing also because it seems to show that the VSB used scarce
educational resources to pay contractors to generate population size
estimates – even though those estimates conflict with the freely available
Canadian census data and would therefore appear faulty.

(4) https://www.bced.gov.bc.ca/reports/pdfs/student_stats/prov.pdf.
Scroll to page 31.

(5)
http://fisabc.ca/sites/default/files/Enrolment%20Ind%20Public%20Comparison%2
02015.pdf

(6) e.g., schools which the Liberals identified in 2005 as being the
most unsafe and promised to remedy by 2008 are still not complete and work
on other dire schools has not even begun.