As the Vancouver School Board weighs potential budget cuts, teachers planned a rally Monday to protest the impact such cuts would have on adult education programs.
The rally, scheduled an hour before a VSB meeting at which budget proposals were on the agenda, is a last-ditch effort by the British Columbia Teachers' Federation to save programs that cater to young adults and others who want to improve their high-school record.
"Once you dismantle a program, it's really hard to put it back together," BCTF president Glen Hansman said on Monday, adding that adult education programs around the province have disappeared or been scaled back since 2015.
That's when the provincial government eliminated an "education guarantee" that offered free high-school courses for adult learners.
Such courses are still free for people who haven't graduated high school. But people who have – including, for instance, people who went to high school elsewhere but who may need a B.C.-recognized course to apply to a postsecondary program – face tuition fees of up to $550 for each Grade 11 or 12 credit.
(Grants are available for people whose incomes fall under a certain threshold, set at $25,000 a year for a single person.)
The Vancouver School Board has projected an operating budget shortfall of $2.13-million for 2017-2018 and has proposed cuts, including to its adult education offerings, to bridge that gap.
An original budget proposal, released April 6, called for three remaining adult education centres in the city to be consolidated into one.
A revised budget proposal, released April 19, calls for closing just one. The revised budget also eliminates cuts to aboriginal education that were in the original proposal. Other measures in the proposed budget include increasing revenue from rentals and some administrative cuts.
The VSB has an annual budget of more than $500-million.
The province fired nine elected school trustees last October after they did not pass a balanced budget, as required under the school act. They were replaced by government-appointed trustee Dianne Turner.
The province's policy changes related to adult education have resulted in declining enrolment and fewer opportunities for adult learners, who include young adults, new Canadians and people who have been in the work force but want to seek better jobs, said Hollie Williams, president of the Vancouver Elementary School Teachers' Association's adult education committee.
"The lack of support for adult learners in this province is preventing them from getting into postsecondary, getting decent jobs and so on – it's a barrier," said Ms. Williams, who has taught in the adult education sector for about 20 years.
In November, 2016, a select standing committee on finance and government services recommended that the government reinstate tuition-free English as a second language, adult basic education and adult special education programs.