September 11, 2017 | VICTORIA, BC—The Budget Update announced today by the BC government demonstrates the government’s commitment to increasing access to post-secondary education. Following the recent announcement to eliminate tuition fees for adult basic education and English language learning classes, the Budget Update outlines the funding for these programs.
“Students and faculty have been calling for the elimination of tuition fees for adult basic education for several years,” said Simka Marshall, Chairperson of the BC Federation of Students (BCFS). “The removal of financial barriers for adult education programs will allow some of the most marginalized people in our communities to access basic upgrading and education.”
The Budget Update allocates $19 million in funding for adult basic education and English language learning in the post-secondary and K-12 sectors for the remainder of the 2017-18 year. The government has not provided forecasts for the following years, saying that appropriate funding will be budgeted based on enrolment changes in this current academic year.
“After 16 years of neglect from the previous government on issues related to post-secondary education ranging from tuition fees to working conditions to funding, this government has taken the refreshing position of listening to stakeholders and acting quickly to make improvements for both students and educators,” said George Davison, President of the Federation of Post-Secondary Educators of BC (FPSE). “While there is still much work to do, including reinstating funding for Adult Special Education programs, we commend the government for their action thus far. We look forward to working with them to continue improving the choices and opportunities in post-secondary education for all British Columbians.”
The BC Liberal government eliminated $6.9 million in funding for post-secondary adult basic education programs in December 2014. At the same time, they allowed tuition fees of as much as $1,600 per semester be charged. Since that time enrolment in these programs has declined dramatically—by as much as 60% at some institutions. Since 2013, roughly $15 million has been cut to English language learning programs offered through post-secondary institutions.
The BC Federation of Students represents over 150,000 post-secondary students at 14 universities and colleges in every region of BC. The Federation of Post-Secondary Educators of BC represents 10,000 faculty and staff at BC’s colleges, universities, and institutes.
For more information, please contact:
Simka Marshall, BCFS Chairperson (604) 733-1880
Nicole Seguin, FPSE Communications Officer (604) 831-6684
Across the country, on September 4th we will celebrate Labour Day and the living history of unions across BC and Canada. From the print workers who organized for a reasonable workday almost 150 years ago, to public service workers who defied the government of the day and went on strike for collective bargaining rights, to all the union members and activists working today to improve the health and safety of our working conditions and ensure an inclusive and welcoming workplace for all, Labour Day is a testament to the power of collective organizing.
By working together in solidarity, workers - and different unions - have won many hard-fought battles. Their successes have led to many of the benefits we enjoy today: a limited workday, paid overtime, weekends and paid vacation, and the right to safe and healthy work environments. In addition to fighting for workers’ rights at the bargaining table and on the picket line, labour organizations have also advocated for better policies for working people at all levels of government. By taking the concerns of members to those in elected office, organized labour has achieved many victories for those across our cities, province, and country.
Here at FPSE, we are grateful to everyone who joined and supported our campaigns in the lead-up to the provincial election to strengthen post-secondary education in BC, including the many unions who gave their support – thank you. We can be proud that together we voted for post-secondary education and for working people across the province. Already, we have seen that the new government has listened to our voice: just weeks after taking office they removed tuition from Adult Basic Education and English Language Learning, they’ve lowered the rate of interest in student loans to prime (on the way to eliminating interest on student loans altogether), and they’ve committed to raising the minimum wage. These are definitive actions in the early days of the new government that will make life more affordable for working people, and education more accessible for learners of all ages.
These changes, and the promise of a government that will continue to listen to the concerns of labour, mark the beginning of a new season in BC. We know firsthand the challenges our members, students, and families are facing in BC regarding the costs of post-secondary education, and we’re looking forward to working with the new government to begin finding solutions to the historic underfunding of the system. Just as this situation took years to develop, it will take time to fix but with our sustained efforts and a government with a demonstrated willingness to act, progress can be made.
This Labour Day, I look forward to honouring the legacy of the union activists who came before us with folks in the community and friends in labour at the Labour Day picnic at Holland Park in Surrey. I encourage you to also drop by a Labour Day event organized by your local Labour Council to celebrate with others in your community.
In 1991, the FPSE (then CIEA) produced and circulated 250,000 copies of an election pamphlet titled Today’s education – Tomorrow’s Opportunities: An Advanced Education and Training Agenda for British Columbians, marking the federation’s first foray into electoral activism.
We argued that all British Columbians should be able to receive the post-secondary education they need or want, and that our future depends upon removing all barriers to advanced education – financial, geographic, language, gender or disability. We understood then, as we do now, that our future depends upon government making stable, long-term investments in post-secondary education.
Since then, our advocacy has expanded in print and online, and the federation takes an active role in advocating for post-secondary education during elections.
IN 1991 WE PROPOSED:
- That post-secondary education be treated as an investment in the future of our province, rather than an expense to be slashed when times are tough.
- That B.C. commit itself to meet at least the national standard for the participation of students in post-secondary education.
- That B.C. spend at least the national average on student assistance programs.
- That B.C. offer post-secondary students a universal non-repayable grant as do other provinces and that high student debtload be eliminated.
- That tuition fees for students, which are among the highest in the country, be frozen.
- That the real costs of quality post-secondary education be recognized and provided and that funding be put in place to repair our post-secondary system and improve quality, as well as to support enrolment growth.
- That funding per student be returned to at least its 1981/82 level plus inflation.
- That the government immediately provide additional funds to support career, technology and vocational programs.
- That the provincial government make a commitment to our public post-secondary system. Privatization of vocational and career programs is neither cost-efficient nor does it guarantee all qualified students an affordable, quality education.
The events of recent days begun by the white supremacist rally at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville have been a disgusting display of racism and hate that have overtly demonstrated what so many people of colour in our communities experience every day. As educators and citizens, we condemn in the strongest possible terms white supremacy, Nazism, racism, and all forms of racial hatred. We recognize that our classrooms and campuses are not immune from these dangerous actions and rhetoric, and that we play a role in ensuring that hatred and bigotry have no place in our educational institutions and organizations. We stand in solidarity with the students, faculty, staff, friends, and family whose safety is jeopardized by the violent hatred being voiced. White supremacy is not an opposing point of view to be heard; it is hate speech and an affront to humanity. As long as any of us are unsafe, we are all unsafe.
And while it’s important to stand in solidarity and to condemn such hatred, it’s imperative that we also use whatever power, influence, and privilege we may have to disrupt institutional and systemic racism through action. At FPSE, our Human Rights & International Solidarity Committee is continuously developing strategies for achieving equity in our institutions and in our communities, and our annual Speakers Tour benefits from the diverse voices of those who have generously participated. At our AGM earlier this year, our membership unanimously supported the creation and funding of a committee devoted to implementing the calls to action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission through decolonizing our educational spaces and supporting the work of Indigenous leaders in revising and adding to the curriculum across all institutions in BC.
As a federation of unions, we are part of the history of labour in the civil rights and human rights movements. As activists and allies, we have been part of the fight to enshrine our rights in law, but laws remain abstract until they rectify actual wrongs through citizen action and practical change. Despite the gains that have been achieved, it is obvious that there is much more to do to make Canada truly safe for all.
The basis of learning is the safety to do so. We will continue to resist and speak out against racism, hatred, and violence. We will listen and learn from our students and faculty about where we can make our places of work and learning safe, even when those conversations and actions are uncomfortable for us. We will remain vigilant and committed to the safety and security within and beyond the post-secondary system for everyone working, learning, and living in BC.
If you are able, I encourage you to join Stand Up to Racism Metro Vancouver rally tomorrow, Saturday August 19 in Vancouver. There is a meet-up organized by labour at the Broadway City Hall Skytrain station (W Broadway and Cambie), with participants marching to the rally at 12:30pm. Together, we can show that white supremacy and hatred have no place here.
After years of lobbying, the Federation of Post-Secondary Educators of BC (FPSE) is delighted with news that Premier John Horgan has restored funding to Adult Basic Education and English as a Second Language (ESL) programs in B.C.
Cuts to ESL education announced by Ottawa in late 2013 led to huge tuition fees for ESL students, and provincial cuts to adult basic education, starting in January 2015, shut the door on post-secondary ambitions for many adult learners. The introduction of fees for ESL and adult basic education disproportionately affected low income earners, single parents, newcomers, refugees, and aboriginal students.
FPSE President George Davison attended the funding announcement Tuesday, August 8, at Camosun College in Victoria, where he met with Premier Horgan, Advanced Education, Skills and Training Minister Melanie Mark, and Education Minister Rob Fleming.
“Premier Horgan’s announcement marks the end of a three-year campaign to ensure that adult learners and newcomers have access to basic education and language training in B.C.” said Davison. “Our members were clear that adult basic education and English language programs provided foundational skills essential to secure employment and further post-secondary learning.”
The premier’s announcement is a victory for our members. Our Open the Doors campaign resulted in pre-election commitments to restore funding for these essential programs from the BC NDP and BC Greens, and from the BC Liberals in their aborted Throne Speech. The announcement is an important step in making sure that our education system is more affordable and accessible for all.
“This is good news for our members, and for anyone who cares about education in our province. But our work isn’t over,” said Davison. “There are a number of serious issues still facing our members in both public and private institutions throughout B.C., and we will continue to press the new government on those issues, including improving the trades training system, addressing affordability for students and student debt levels, the casualization of precarious academic work, and fulfilling the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.”
As educators and staff in the post-secondary education system, we know creating a safe environment where every person’s human and civil rights are respected is crucial to a productive learning environment. We also know that this work does not end at the classroom door, and I am so proud to stand with our member faculty and staff in solidarity with the LGBTQ2*+ community.
Across BC, Pride parades and events mark a meaningful time to celebrate progress being made within our communities, especially the significant advances that have been made in the past year:
- July 25, 2016: In BC, Bill 27 was passed in to law, adding gender identity and expression protection to the Human Rights Code.
- June 19, 2017: Bill C-16 received Royal Assent and became federal law, adding protection of gender identity and expression to the Canadian Human Rights Code and the Criminal Code.
This is also a time to reflect on the work that is still to be done to achieve an entirely free, just, safe, and inclusive society. At home and abroad, many people are under threat of persecution and worse due to their gender identity, expression, or sexual orientation.
FPSE encourages all members to show support for LGBTQ2*+ equity by taking part in Pride celebrations in your communities. Pride festivals are an opportunity to celebrate our accomplishments, and to keep working for a society where everybody is free to express who they are and free to love who they want.
On July 18, 2017, Premier John Horgan and his cabinet were sworn-in and are now the official new government of British Columbia. Federation of Post-Secondary Educators of BC President George Davison was in attendance to witness this historic moment, and had the following to say on behalf of the Federation:
“Over the past 16 years, government funding of post-secondary education has massively declined, placing an unsustainable burden on students and families across BC. On behalf of the member locals of our federation, we welcome The Honourable Melanie Mark, M.L.A., to her new role as Minister of Advanced Education, Skills and Training. We are confident that the new government is committed to improving the lives of all British Columbians with a renewed commitment to providing better choices and opportunities in post-secondary education.”
We look forward to working with the minister on issues such as free access to Adult Basic Education and ESL, reducing student debt including the elimination of interest on student loans, support for rural colleges, and indigenization of the curriculum.
FPSE has always worked to ensure post-secondary education remains affordable and accessible and that it meets the needs of people throughout the province. We look forward to working with Premier Horgan and his government to address the challenges ahead.
FPSE is working toward our strategic goal of supporting decolonization, reconciliation, and Indigenization on our campuses and in Canadian society. To that end, delegates at the 2017 AGM voted to create an Indigenous Standing Committee, with the collective support and effort of our Federation.
The committee's name, membership, and terms of reference will be finalized in the coming months.
I don’t know about you, but I think this has been the most interesting start of a summer vacation I’ve ever had. After a long election campaign, made even longer by some very close races, and weeks of uncertainty about who would form government, we are now on the brink of new government in B.C. Last night, former Premier Clark asked Her Honour the Lieutenant-Governor for the dissolution of the Legislature. Exercising her constitutional authority, however, L-G Judith Guichon declined this request and invited now Premier-designate John Horgan to form government. We have a great deal to celebrate.
All three of the major party platforms featured post-secondary education prominently, something we can attribute largely to the success of our Open the Doors campaign in raising voter engagement on the issues of affordability and accessibility in our sector. In particular, after years of effort, our campaign resulted in commitments from all three major parties to restore funding for Adult Basic Education (ABE) and English as a Second Language (ESL) programs (although the B.C. Liberal conversion came somewhat later than the others).
Now, the NDP and Green Party have the opportunity to implement their historic agreement. By the time we’re heading back to our classrooms and our offices, John Horgan’s government will be sworn in and hard at work. Our Fall will be busy as we build relationships with this new government, engaging with key decision-makers on our top priorities, including revamping the funding formula, improving affordability for students, and developing mechanisms for frequent consultation with those of us who work and teach in the system. First in line, though, is a call to restore free tuition for developmental programs on time for the start of classes in September.
Government relations and public policy advocacy is critical to our effort to improve the post-secondary education system: to ensure that it is affordable and accessible for all, not just the wealthy few. This work is especially top of mind as we eagerly watch the transition from the government of the past 16 years to a new one. But in the meantime, we continue our work as part of the broader labour movement and in our communities. We stand in solidarity with those who are fighting for their human and civil rights. We acknowledge that while the government of Canada celebrates 150 years since Confederation, the work of reconciliation with the indigenous peoples – whose land was colonized to build this country - is just beginning. We join our LGBTQ friends and colleagues in celebrating Pride, but also in remembering that Pride marches originated as political events to call attention to hatred and violence experienced in those communities.
And when summer winds down, there is no better way to mark its end and the start of a new school year than by joining your local Labour Day celebration, marking over a hundred years of advocating for workers’ rights. I’ll be at the BC Federation of Labour picnic at Swangard Stadium in Burnaby, joining trade unionists from all over the Metro Vancouver area to celebrate the proud achievements of the labour movement, and I would invite all of you in the area to join me.
Stay tuned for periodic updates as we find out more from Victoria and prepare to kick off our next phase of advocacy for our members and our students. And whether you’re taking a well-deserved vacation or teaching through the coming months, I wish you an enjoyable summer. At the very least, it should be an interesting one!
Delegates to FPSE’s Annual General Meeting and Convention, held May 15-18, 2017, demonstrated their ongoing support for FPSE’s leadership by acclaiming all four executive officers to their positions. Returning to their roles for another one-year term are President George Davison, Secretary-Treasurer Terri Van Steinburg, First Vice-President Frank Cosco, and Second Vice-President Leslie Molnar. Presidents’ Council also elected two Members-at-Large to serve on the Executive, Tim Walters (Local 9) and Shirley Ackland (Local 16), at the post-Convention meeting.
“I’m humbled to have once again received the support and confidence of the members of our Federation,” said Davison. “We have an exciting year ahead of us, full of opportunity with a new government poised to take office. We look forward to increased consultation with faculty and staff at our public post-secondary institutions, and working together to improve affordability and accessibility for post-secondary students.”
“It’s an honour to have been re-elected to the role of Secretary-Treasurer. Being part of our Federation’s leadership has been an incredible privilege,” said Van Steinburg. “FPSE is growing rapidly, taking on exciting projects and campaigns, and I’m committed to ensuring we have the necessary resources to support all our Locals and members across the province.”
This year’s keynote speaker was Jane McAlevey, who gave a rousing talk about the importance of building high-participation unions. McAlevey, an organizer, negotiator, author, and educator, works with unions all over the world to make a shift to more participatory approaches to our traditional work. “I want to talk about winning, because winning matters,” McAlevey said. “Some things that we do lead to winning, and some things that we do don’t. Taking risk is connected to winning.”
Delegates also heard from Aaron Ekman, Secretary-Treasurer of the BC Federation of Labour; Paul Faoro, President of CUPE BC; Anna Beukes, President of Alberta Colleges & Institutes Faculties Association (ACIFA); and Simka Marshall, Chairperson of the BC Federation of Students.
The convention featured robust and healthy debate on a variety of topics. Among the resolutions passed was a bylaw amendment creating a seat for the Chair of the Non-Regular Faculty Committee at Presidents’ Council, which governs FPSE between AGMs. Like the Executive Committee members, this position will have full voice but no vote. Delegates also voted to continue FPSE’s advocacy for tuition-free Adult Basic Education and English as an Additional Language; to build upon the Open the Doors campaign; and to prioritize decolonization, reconciliation, and indigenization on our campuses and in Canadian society – including the creation of a new FPSE Standing Committee to further these goals.
The 48th Annual General Meeting and Convention will be held May 14-17, 2018 in Whistler, hosted by Capilano Faculty Association, FPSE Local 1.