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Public backs education spending: poll

A recent poll shows more than 85 per cent of British Columbians believe education spending should be a key part of the economic stimulus in the upcoming provincial budget, says a coalition whose members include students, teachers and a civil service

A recent poll shows more than 85 per cent of British Columbians believe education spending should be a key part of the economic stimulus in the upcoming provincial budget, says a coalition whose members include students, teachers and a civil service union.

The Jan. 14-21 telephone survey of 500 randomly chosen B.C. adults was conducted for the B.C. Coalition for Public Education by the Mustel Group. The poll results show the public recognizes the need for government to invest in education "so that when we emerge from this current economic mess, we're well-prepared to seize the opportunities of tomorrow," said Shamus Reid, who serves as B.C. chairman for the Canadian Federation of Students. "With over 70 per cent of all new jobs requiring some form of post-secondary education, the B.C. government cannot afford to neglect any part of our public-education system if it hopes to rebuild a strong economy," Reid said.

The Liberal government has said it plans to run deficits for the next two years to prevent cuts to education and health care, but members of the coalition are not convinced that will be enough.

Cindy Oliver of the Federation of Post-Secondary Educators of B.C. said another $200 million is needed for the public post-secondary system alone to catch up with the rate of inflation, and to meet the cost of new technology, equipment and other expenses. "Hopefully, this polling data finds its way into the provincial budget."

Reid said the poll shows the public is also concerned with accessibility to post-secondary education, noting 70 per cent of respondents listed the ability to pay tuition fees and other costs of education as the single biggest factor preventing British Columbians from attending college or university.

The provincial budget is due for release Feb. 17.

The coalition also includes the B.C. Teachers' Federation and the B.C. Government and Service Employees' Union. The poll is considered accurate plus or minus 4.4 per cent 95 per cent of the time.

jwbell@tc.canwest.com

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