“Education is about empowering the individual,” according to B.C. Finance Minister Mike de Jong. “It’s about providing a young person with tools for a lifetime.
“And we know this: On average, the better trained and educated a person is, the healthier they will be because they will make better decisions for themselves and their family.”
De Jong, in the budget speech he delivered to the legislature on Tuesday, expanded on this notion, talking about learning fundamentals from the first day of school, and the way education opens our minds.
One must wonder why this strong belief in education was suppressed by the B.C. Liberal government for so many years, and why the government fought so hard to defend the cuts that it made to the public-school system more than a decade ago.
De Jong announced that the government is committing $740 million to education over the next three years. Rhetoric is nice, but remember that the minister could be in contempt of court if he failed to heed the judgment that followed a lengthy, expensive legal battle over class sizes and composition.
That $740 million includes $320 million to fund an agreement with the B.C. Teachers’ Federation — an amount that will likely be higher when negotiations end. A responsible estimate will always be low, not high.
So why is the minister proudly saying that education “opens the door to a wealth of opportunities that can lead students into a bright future”? There are 320 million answers.