With schools re-opening in just over a week , district trustees in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows are optimistic there will be more funding for education under the new NDP government.
An early example was Premier John Horgan announcing earlier this month the province will eliminate tuition fees on adult basic education and English language learning programs.
In 2015, the previous Liberal government imposed tuition fees of up to $1,600 per semester for adults to take high school courses – the equivalent cost of an arts and science undergraduate program.
Enrolment in adult basic education and English language learning programs dropped by 35 per cent in two years, from 10,244 full-time students to 6,692 last year.
Susan Carr, vice-chairperson of the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows school board, said she expects Riverside College in Maple Ridge to increase enrolment with the “free upgrading” policy restored.
It had dropped by approximately 200 students.
“Obviously, for adult learners this is excellent,” she said. “If there are people who are keen to finish their education and continue on, we have to support them.”
She said the elimination of funding in 2015 saved relatively little for the government, but had a significant impact on adults trying to learn the language or take required courses.
“It hurt people who are already struggling.”
The move was hailed by the BCTF.
“The new B.C. NDP government’s move to reverse the B.C. Liberals’ cuts to adult education will make a real difference in the lives of many British Columbians looking to upgrade their skills and get better-paying jobs,” said BCTF President Glen Hansman.
“The cuts brought in by the B.C. Liberal government in 2015 had a huge impact on many adult learners and teachers,” said Hansman. “In Lower Mainland, communities like Vancouver, Surrey, and Coquitlam, the cuts actually put the adult education system into crisis. The cuts were especially hurtful to people looking to complete or upgrade courses they needed for job training programs, those learning English, new immigrants, and Indigenous learners.”
Carr takes the policy change as an early sign that school districts will get more of the funding they have been lobbying for.
“For all the people who have been advocating for more funding for education for all these years – parents and teachers – it’s a nod.”
“It’s still early days, but from what we’re hearing, things are looking positive.”