COLUMN: School funding good for students, and politicians, too

B.C. Premier Christy Clark announced the province is committing $353 million to new schools,

The political pressure was on, but few expected such an overwhelmingly positive response from the provincial government on the issue of more space for students in Surrey.

On Monday, Premier Christy Clark came to Hazelgrove Elementary in Clayton, one of Surrey’s newest and most overcrowded schools. She announced the province is committing $353 million to new schools, additional classrooms and the purchase of school sites. About one-third of that money will go to Surrey, the largest and fastest-growing school district in B.C.

The funds for Surrey will go towards a new elementary school in Clayton, as well as one in Newton. They will also be used to expand Fraser Heights and Panorama Ridge Secondaries, which between them have 30 portables on site.

Additional funds will go towards purchasing four school sites, including two to take pressure off Lord Tweedsmuir and Earl Marriott secondaries. Two of the sites will be in Clayton, and the other two will be in Grandview Heights. Both areas are growing rapidly and considerably more growth is expected.

At Lord Tweedsmuir and Earl Marriott, students are on an extended timetable to make maximum use of the limited space. There are about 250 portable classrooms in use in Surrey. There is no let-up in sight to growth, as Surrey continues to attract many young families.

Considerable credit for the additional funds must go to the Surrey Board of Education, Surrey council and the business and parent communities. All have made a persuasive case for additional capital funds for the school district.

Finance Minister Kevin Falcon – who represents Surrey-Cloverdale where much of the growth is taking place – has also been making the case for the school district, along with other Surrey MLAs from both parties.

Mayor Dianne Watts has also been instrumental in making the case for new schools. She has probably brought the subject up more often than most Surrey mayors have in the past, as council has often left it up to the school board to make its case.

The concerted effort and solid business case played a big role in Surrey getting so much funding, board of education chair Laurae McNally said.

And the good news is that there will be more. The premier acknowledged that the funds do not meet all of Surrey’s needs and indicated that future funding requests will get a serious look from Victoria.

It is unfortunate and somewhat inexplicable that this situation has been left unresolved for so long. Surrey last received substantial capital funding in 2005, and the most recent new school, Adams Road Elementary in Clayton, opened earlier this year. It’s not that the province has been ignoring capital funding. It has spent substantial sums on health facilities, on the BC Place renovations and on the trade and convention centre in Vancouver. But for some reason, school projects were shoved far down the list.

While this makes sense in the many districts that have been losing students due to changing demographics, it never made sense in Surrey. It appeared that Surrey had got lost in the shuffle, as the prevailing trend was declining enrolment and school closures. While former premier Gordon Campbell said education was a high priority, school districts didn’t seem to get much in the way of capital funds. Clark, who has emphasized the needs of families, seems to have been more receptive.

School capital programs in Surrey have been vote-getters in the past.

In the late 1980s, the NDP made a big deal about Surrey’s lack of funds for new schools, with former premier Mike Harcourt touring numerous facilities while he was opposition leader. When the NDP came to power in 1991, Surrey received considerable funds for needs that had gone untended for some time.

Perhaps Clark is hoping for a repeat when her government goes to the polls in May 2013.

Frank Bucholtz writes Thursdays for the Peace Arch News. He is the editor of the Langley Times.

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Eternity Medical Equipment’s ECAN95 masks have received Health Canada approval and CSA certification. (Eternity Medical Equipment photo)
South Surrey N-95 equivalent manufacturer launches mask recycling program

Eternity Medical Equipment partners with Ontario-based LifeCycle Revive

Surrey Fire Service at a garage fire in the 14400-block of 82A Ave on March 22, 2021. (Photo: Shane MacKichan)
‘Perfect storm’ of variants, increasing COVID cases are concerning for Surrey fire chief

Between police and fire, Larry Thomas said there are 8 confirmed cases, 18 others isolating

Emergency crews on scene after a small plane crashed in a grassy area on the northeast side of Boundary Bay Airport Saturday morning (April 10). A freelancer said the plane caught fire and one person was transported to hospital by BC Emergency Health Services. (Photo: Shane MacKichan)
Small plane crashes at Delta’s Boundary Bay Airport

Plane appears to have suffered ‘significant’ damage, says freelancer

Signage on a South Surrey sidewalk reminds pedestrians to respect social-distancing guidelines. (Photo: Tracy Holmes)
Surrey records 4,400 COVID-19 cases in March

New cases almost doubled between February, March

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and Premier John Horgan describe vaccine rollout at the legislature, March 29, 2021. (B.C. government)
1,262 more COVID-19 infections in B.C. Friday, 9,574 active cases

Province’s mass vaccination reaches one million people

People walk past the Olympic rings in Whistler, B.C., Friday, May 15, 2020. Whistler which is a travel destination for tourists around the world is seeing the effects of travel bans due to COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Adults living, working in Whistler, B.C., eligible for COVID-19 vaccine on Monday

The move comes as the province deals with a rush of COVID-19 and variant cases in the community

RCMP crest. (Black Press Media files)
UPDATE: RCMP investigating after child, 6, dies at motel in Duncan, B.C.

The BC Coroners Service is conducting its own investigation into the circumstances around the child’s death

RCMP display some of the fish seized from three suspects who pleaded guilty to violating the Fisheries Act in 2019, in this undated handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO - RCMP
3 banned from fishing, holding licences after overfishing violations near Vancouver Island

Mounties seized the group’s 30-foot fishing vessel and all equipment on board at the time

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

B.C. Premier John Horgan responds to questions during a postelection news conference in Vancouver, on Sunday, October 25, 2020. British Columbia’s opposition Liberals and Greens acknowledge the COVID-19 pandemic has presented huge challenges for Horgan’s government, but they say Monday’s throne speech must outline a coherent plan for the province’s economic, health, social and environmental future. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Horgan’s NDP to bring in throne speech in B.C., Opposition wants coherent plan

Farnworth said the budget will include details of government investment in communities and infrastructure

FILE - An arena worker removes the net from the ice after the Vancouver Canucks and Calgary Flames NHL hockey game was postponed due to a positive COVID-19 test result, in Vancouver, British Columbia, in this Wednesday, March 31, 2021, file photo. As vaccinations ramp up past a pace of 3 million a day in the U.S, the NHL is in a tougher spot than the other three major North American professional sports leagues because seven of 31 teams are based on Canada. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press via AP, File)
Vancouver Canucks scheduled to practice Sunday, resume games April 16 after COVID outbreak

Canucks outbreak delayed the team’s season by eight games

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod, seen here on April 9, 2021 with four-year-old sister Elena and mom Vanessa, was born with limb differences. The family, including husband/dad Sean McLeod, is looking for a family puppy that also has a limb difference. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
B.C. family looking for puppy with limb difference, just like 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy McLeod born as bilateral amputee, now her family wants to find ‘companion’ puppy for her

Most Read