British Columbia Premier Christy Clark’s Liberals won the provincial election in 2011; an election result that BC Catholic schools supporters were happy to witness. The Liberals campaign platform on education included continued support for all independent schools (which include faith-based schools) in British Columbia. In British Columbia, public schools receive full provincial funding while independent schools, including Catholic schools, receive 50 or 35 per cent funding per pupil.
There are currently 79 Catholic Independent Schools in British Columbia, which are operated by five dioceses: Vancouver, Victoria, Nelson, Prince George and Kamloops. BC Independent Schools makes make up twelve per cent of the province’s total elementary and high school enrollment numbers. Although the Catholic schools meet the provincial curriculum and teaching training requirements, they still don’t receive full funding, forcing these schools to charge student tuition fees and fundraise money for any necessary building and/or capital projects.
The BC Education Plan
When the BC government released its Education Plan in 2011, it cites a greater support for more flexibility in how students receive their education.
“There will be more flexibility and choice regarding how, when and where learning takes place, and there will be more flexibility about how students are organized for learning. Public and independent schools, including speciality programs like traditional schools and academies, will continue to be options for parents and students,” the plan states.
Recently, Independent schools have been invited to the ERASE Bullying Workshops which at first was offered only to public school employees.
“The Ministry has been great about involving us in the ERASE Bullying training session province wide and we greatly appreciate it,” says Bev Pulyk, Superintendent for the Nelson Diocses. “Additionally, there was a follow-up meeting by the Ministry for public school superintendents, and they invited the five Catholic schools superintendents. The Ministry of Education recognizes the importance of having all BC schools on board with all Ministry initiatives.”
Independent school leaders feel reassured that its current funding system will remain intact for the time being.
Meanwhile, the Federation of Independent Schools Association of British Columbia continues to work closely with the government on behalf of all independent schools across the province.
“We’re fortunate to have FISA representing our interests and ensuring our voice is being heard by the province,” says Pulyk. “Their positive working relationship with government on behalf of all independent schools is essential.”