The Basic #BCEd Statistics

The debate over public education in British Columbia is often a heated struggle of ideologies and partisan beliefs. Thankfully, Statistics Canada has published some helpful data in a publication called “Summary Elementary and Secondary School Indicators for Canada, the Provinces and Territories, 2006/2007 to 2010/2011”. [Unfortunately, no newer comparative evidence exists, but the publication is due to be updated next year.] The evidence therein provides the basis for an informed discussion about education policy and funding, and a means by which the competing claims of the provincial government and supporters of public education may be judged. I’ve often referred to the data in piecemeal fashion, but I thought it would be helpful to compile some of the key charts in one post.

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1. Overall operating expenditure for public education as of 2011 is $988 less in British Columbia than the Canadian average, and significantly below BC’s neighbouring provinces.

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2. After the 2006 contract, it became clear the settlement would not be fully funded. The key evidence for this conclusion is the change in the student-educator ratio. Despite other provinces facing the same demographic and economic challenges, only BC’s SER climbed after 2006. By 2011, BC had the worst SER in the country.

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(For a fairly definitive look at the effects of class size, this recent meta-data study doesn’t mince words:  “All else being equal, increasing class sizes will harm student outcomes.”)

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3. Are BC public educators paid too much compared to other provinces? It’s difficult to make this comparison, because each province has its own pay scale and criteria. But according to Statistics Canada,  the average educator pay per student metric demonstrates that BC teachers are not overpaid. Between 2006/2007 and 2010/2011, per student “remuneration” increased the least in BC, and by 2011 was the lowest in Canada.

payperstudentchange1

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(Given that BC public school teachers faced a three year wage freeze after 2011, it’s hard to believe anything has changed with regard to pay per student.)

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4. The BC Liberal government often proclaims that student outcomes are excellent. Aside from dubious improvements to the graduation rate (which is fairly easy to manipulate) the BC government often points to the high PISA scores achieved by BC students. While technically true compared to other jurisdictions, these scores have rested on the laurels of previous governments and actually declined during the BC Liberal era. Moreover, PISA scores are the result of many factors, and may not be particularly representative of educational effectiveness, but even if we take them at face value it’s hard to see why they allow the BC Liberals to justify under-funding.

mathreadingpisaBC1

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Have I cherry-picked the data? Well, it’s difficult to be neutral about such an important topic, but please let me know if there is any other data you think is crucial for the debate.

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