Olympic programs not a hit with teachers, school boards

Posted by admin on Sep 9th, 2009

By Kimberly Shearon, The Province, September 9, 2009

The B.C. government rolled out its Olympic education programs yesterday to less than enthusiastic support from teachers and school boards. The province spent $550,000 during the past three years developing the programs. “We felt it was a very good investment considering the education opportunities that there are with the Olympics this year,” said B.C. Education Minister Margaret MacDiarmid. But B.C. Teachers Federation president Irene Lanzinger was skeptical.

“The government keeps coming out with these feel-good announcements,” she said. “It’s all about some kind of spin they’re putting on what is really an underfunding of the public system.”

The programs, she said, fail to tackle tough Olympic issues, such as drug testing, corruption and whether Vancouver should be hosting the Games.

“This is an advertising campaign for the Olympics. It’s not an educational program.”

The unveiling at False Creek Elementary School came on the heels of school funding cuts. Last week’s provincial budget has school boards scrambling to make up for a $110-million shortfall in facility grants.

The Vancouver School Board had its $10.6-million facility grant yanked “with no warning,” said board chairwoman Patti Bacchus.

She said the district will also have to spend “several hundred thousand dollars” to bring schools in line with provincial health regulations related to the H1N1 virus.

The province, MacDiarmid said, has put more dollars than ever into school funding.

Bacchus, however, said that while the dollar figure itself might be the highest ever, the year-over-year increase does not keep pace with fixed costs and negotiated contracts.

The Olympic-themed education initiative also rubbed salt in the wound left by a $130,000 cut to school sport funding.

Last week, MacDiarmid suggested students get exercise by walking, dancing or going to the park if their school sport program gets cut.

Meanwhile, Bacchus said the district is facing the possibility of “significant layoffs.”

“We’re suddenly in a position where we’re literally spending money today that we don’t have.”


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