The astounding nature of the B.C. Liberal government’s proposal to pay parents of children under 13 years of age $40 per kid not to send them to school is a turning point of some kind in the history of public education here — or anywhere.
Not even in the Third World countries, where some children risk their lives to go to school, has any form of government, or even anti-government, come up with such a plan to discourage education.
Given that there are no strings attached to the $40 per day, no requirements remotely connected to education, the possibilities as to what parents might do with the money are limitless.
Only a cynic would suggest that it is part of government’s plan to claw back much of the “keep your child out of school” money at tax time.
For working parents financially close to the line every month, the possibility of an immediate extra $200 per child for each week the schools remain closed is a windfall.
The notion that the money be used for child care assumes there is plenty of child care available, which, as every working parent knows, it is not.
No doubt there will be some opportunistic types, absent any kind of police records check, who will be offering their services at $40 per child per day to look after the kiddies while the parents are elsewhere.
For parents who do not need the money, September might be the time to take that family vacation to somewhere south of here where $40 a day goes a lot further.
Using the money to enrol children in an independent school will be a choice of some parents still clinging to the notion that kids should be in school. They will be dismayed to discover that long waiting lists mean a placement might be found in 2015.
Other parents, aware that for kids there is already a decay of learning over the summer break, might hire out-of-work teachers to tutor kids, lest the normal September catch-up work be lost forever.
Perhaps some activist parents will organize and have hundreds of other parents simply show up at their neighbourhood school on what would have been opening day, camping there until those responsible for and entrusted with the responsibility of providing public education come to their senses.
It might be time that something along those lines happened anyway.
But enough of this serious talk about kids and their need to be in school.
The value of public education is something the current government clearly has doubts about, so let’s consider some other possibilities for this “paying not to use” concept.
Some wags have already suggested that the B.C. Liberals might really be on to something if they are prepared to think about other applications suggested by this brilliant “keep your child out of school” funding model.
Everybody knows health care is the other major drag on the government budget. Health care sucks away money that could be spent on better things, so it might not be long until a new plan emerges — pay people not to go to doctors.
It is a constant source of irritation to some within government that every time somebody gets a little pain or a rash or finds a lump somewhere, they go rushing off to a doctor — if they can find one. Of course, some communities do not have a resident family physician, so there is a saving already.
One solution to this profligacy with public money, and also a way of settling down those pesky doctors who constantly seem to be wanting more in the way of compensation, would be to remind people that when they get to the hospital emergency reception desk or to the doctor’s office, they will be offered $30 or $40 to just go away. Those who take the money and can walk away would prove they did not need medical attention.
The whole payment-in-lieu reducing both health-care and public-education costs and eliminating service will free up money for other important political initiatives, as it already does in many Third World countries.
Geoff Johnson is a retired superintendent of schools.