Base education spend on need

Telegraph Journal – Friday August 22, 2014 – Editorial

There are many organizations and individuals working diligently to improve the lives of low income families in Saint John. Among those groups is the Business Community Anti-Poverty Initiative which has published a position paper that includes some numbers that should be a clarion call for our entire city.

In five low-income neighbourhoods, early years literacy rates and high school graduation rates are well below both district and provincial averages. In some schools, more than 40 per cent of Grade 2 students aren’t reading at grade level. In some neighbourhoods, only 50 percent of teenagers graduate high school in four years.

The BCAPI group says this chronic educational achievement gap has to be solved once and for all.It is now multi-generational and having a literate city is key not only to personal well-being but our economic future. BCAPI thinks an underlying cause of systemic under-performance lies in how government allots funding for public schools.

Since the days of Equal Opportunity, the rule has been to distribute money for public education based on a per capita basis. Students in Caraquet, Rothesay, Fredericton or Saint John’s south end all receive the same level of funding. Equal Opportunity was a laudable program because it brought a basic level of service to every corner of the province. But some 50 years later, it ignores different needs.

We agree with BCAPI that more money should flow to those neighbourhoods and schools that demonstrate a greater need for time-on-task resources for children struggling to learn. The data is out there; the statistics are irrefutable. Neighbourhoods like the south end, north end, Crescent Valley, lower west side need more help to bring the educational outcomes of their children to an acceptable level.

We recommend all five political parties now campaigning for your vote be pressed to include the idea of differential educational funding as part of their platforms. Certainly candidates running in Saint John need to tell us where they stand on an issue so important to our community’s future.

Katie Bowden