Tag Archives: universality

If You Read But One Thing About Universal Childcare This Week

Line them up here. In this one section of universal childcare analysis by one of the smartest people in the country, Michal Rozworski, we see a number of significant policy issues addressed:

  1. affordable childcare.
  2. universality.
  3. feminism.
  4. including mothers in the workforce more effectively.
  5. a better shot a living wage for childcare workers.
  6. national standards.
  7. standardized curricula and best practices.
  8. economies of scale [for those obsessed with the business plan]

Ultimately, a winning paragraph in a winning analytical piece

While caring for children is an essential task, it is also an unequally distributed chore according to gender and made difficult by unequal material circumstances. A universal system of childcare would at least give more mothers more choice about how to use their time and facilitate their participation in the workforce if they choose. In addition, and especially if it were publicly delivered, it could improve working conditions for childcare workers, standardize curricula and levels of care and increase efficiency via economies of scale.

Why the NDP’s childcare proposal has irritated all the right people | Ricochet.

How Can We Get Better Public Schools?

Well, the first thing we can do is carve out some time to ponder, imagine, dream, inhale, exhale, chat, brainstorm, breathe some more, and forget for a minute that we’ve had a decade of hard-core privatizing, de-funding of the public education system.

It’s hard to imagine a better future when we’re constantly fighting the latest Shock Doctrine-based assault on the public education system in BC.

One solution is on the horizon next week, but first, read this great assessment of the current two-tiered education system we’ve had in BC all along:

There are a few fully private schools in B.C. They get no government cash. They enroll 544 students.

The “private” schools getting government money enroll more than 69,000 students.

These are public schools that you, the taxpayers, cannot access without paying extra. Usually thousands of dollars extra, per child, per year.

This is the issue that no one wants to talk about in B.C. education, the boil they don’t want to lance for fear of seeing the horrible stuff that would seep out.

We have a two-tiered education system in this province, subsidized by everyone for the benefit of the upper middle class and the wealthy.

via Who pays for private schooling?.

So what’s the solution coming up next week?

On Tuesday night, COPE is holding an event called Re:Imagine Schools to ponder the future of public education. We’ll take a couple hours Tuesday night to try to forget the crush of crises we fight every day to listen to some inspiring perspectives and imagine where we want our education system to go.

Because if we can’t imagine what we want our system to be, it’s hard to fight through the attacks.

The event costs only $10 and is free for students.

It’s been a rough year for public schools in BC. It’s not a new thing, but the end of each school year takes a little bit of our resilience away from us. We need nights like next Tuesday to re-invigorate our capacity to dream.

It will be a tonic for the weary and a stimulant for the visionaries who dream of better schools sooner rather than later.

Flaherty’s CPP Double Cross

Even Bush couldn’t privatize social security. But Jim Flaherty found a way to inject the cancer of privatization into our national pension strategy after spending months letting us all think his words that supported the CPP actually meant anything. Silly us for putting any credence into that.

Flaherty’s double cross is to abandon improving the CPP to maximize all of our elders’ financial stability in their senior years in favour of creating a

“private pension plan for small businesses, employees and the self-employed” because “now is not the time for mandatory increases for Canada Pension Plan premiums, saying Canada’s economic recovery remains fragile and the Conservative government is worried about ‘putting more burdens on employers and employees.'”

Read more: http://www.cbc.ca/politics/story/2010/12/20/flaherty-pension-reform-talks.html?ref=rss#ixzz18jHgBzsH

Below is what we should have been doing with the CPP.

I say this all again because when we go to the polls this spring or some time after that, if you know anyone who is retired or even over 40, you need to tell them that the Conservative government, along with their Liberal coalition partners, if they don’t block this privatized pension plan, have set back even further the possibility that all elders will get to live in dignity in Canada. This fight just became an election issue, hopefully enough to crash the parliament along the way.

And if you’re under 40 and you vote to support the Conservatives with their anti-universal seniors’ financial dignity privatization scheme, then I hope you know how to respond to the seniors in your life who will be one step closer to economic despair because of yet another missed opportunity to help lift them out of poverty. Because that would mean actually building the Canada we have inherited isn’t worth much after all.

We need to fight for collective solutions by fighting the insidious ideology that individualized retirement plans will save us all. RRSP tax breaks only help the 25 per cent of Canadians who are wealthy enough to contribute to RRSPs. This is absurd.

Similarly, we need to fight for the dignity of retired workers so we can stop seeing our elders living in such economic circumstance that they’re forced to ask if we’d “like fries with that,” or to awkwardly greet us in a chain clothing store.

Since even our current federal finance minister has noted the value and stability of the CPP, we need to use the minority government context to support the Canadian Labour Congress and the NDP in their efforts to pressure the vulnerable Liberals and Conservatives to enhance the CPP. After all, we got the CPP in the first place in a minority government situation, along with Medicare and student loans. Doubling the CPP and increasing the Guaranteed Income Supplement would make a substantial difference in people’s lives.

via Labour Day, Dignity and Doubling the CPP : Politics, Re-Spun.

Tracking the BC Liberal Party’s Internal Democratic Deficit

It’s astonishing what kind of democratic deficit exists within the BC Liberal party. Their constitution calls for a one-member-one-vote leadership election, but the party has far from a robust, geographically membership base on the ground. How will they ever decide how to pick a new leader?

Energy Minister Bill Bennett said the voting system must be changed so that the vote isn’t entirely controlled by party members from the densely populated Lower Mainland.

Mr. Abbott, like Mr. Bennett, comes from a largely rural riding where the one-member, one-vote system would be a drawback.

via Behind-the-scenes battle raging in Liberal Party – The Globe and Mail.

Sure, no ever accused the BC Liberals of being overly populist. They are a corporate comprador party that happens to have human members. Candidates are parachuted into ridings and even “members” of the party are not eligible to actually vote for the leader without paying an additional fee that the party executive sets: two-tiered democracy! No surprise here.

The additional fee is offensive on principle, but in practice, it may end up being a fundraising vehicle or a manufactured barrier to participation. Imagine the provincial executive meeting this weekend sets a $1,000 fee for transforming oneself from a “common” member to a “preferred” member capable of voting for a leader.

This government has always been a fan of market-based Darwinian inequality over universality, so it would be no surprise to see a significant barrier to participating in a vote for the leader.

The party is locked into a “one person, one vote” mechanism – now the party’s constitutional lawyer is reviewing just how much flexibility can be wrung from that wording.

A core alternative is to allow delegated voting, so that each of the 85 ridings would be able to cast equal ballots.

What all this reflects is that the party does not care about, or is incapable of, expanding meaningful membership depth in all areas of the province. With a 4-year party membership costing only $10, and with a preponderance of members in the lower mainland, perhaps the party should reap what it neglects: one-member-one-vote means those who bother to join get to vote, the rest of the province be damned.

If the party neglects most regions of the province, so be it.

But if the party wants to move to a delegated voting system, and its constitutional lawyer can tease that out of the constitution, then the party will essentially be admitting an error in not caring about developing a broad membership base around the province.

It sure looks bad for them either way.

What is certain is that the tone of political expectations is changing in the 21st century. Organizations with overt expressions that oppose rich, populist, inclusive democratic participation risk losing their significance. The declining voter turnout reflects that shift in expectations.

The rest of November is sure to be tumultuous for politics in BC. When the BC Liberal executive pins down some details of the leadership convention this weekend, contenders will react and jockey. When the BC NDP provincial council meets the following weekend in Victoria, the nature of their deliberations will be affected by what happens with the Liberal executive this weekend. Since the NDP provincial council is largely comprised of delegates from the 85 riding associations, there is a great opportunity for participatory democracy to occur.

Things are moving fast. Don’t go more than a few days without keeping up.

Scholastic Books: Greed Trumps Literacy, No Surprise

Another example of corporate moral whitewashing emerged yesterday when I found out that a small elementary school in Vancouver is not worthy of a Scholastic book fair this year because their order last year was only $800, much much lower than the $1200 necessary for the corporation to bother with them.

Of course, it would be inappropriate to hold this corporation to any kind of significant moral standard as a champion of literacy. They are a corporation with a bottom line to worry about, after all.

The neoliberal defunding of public education in BC that we are struggling under for this decade is in part designed to open up space for private corporations to take over aspects of public education. Early in my teaching career, before I really started to think of the political implications of this kind of corporate intrusion into public education I used the Scholastic order forms in my classroom to give students a chance to order books. My “commissions” were in extra books that I would keep for students to read in the classroom or cycle over to the library.

For every venture like this, we see one more government excuse for why it is just fine to continue defunding education: people and corporations will pick up the slack.

In Vancouver, there are a number of annex schools, small sites located between larger elementary schools to allow younger students an opportunity to have more of a neighbourhood school as opposed to travelling too far. Small schools have many intrinsic advantages, but lack economies of scale to the point of falling under the profit radar of Scholastic.

Part of the reason I left teaching was to work more in the political arena to oppose the forced fundraising for schools that comes from the intentional defunding of the system to justify massive tax cuts. Not coincidentally, one week ago, the desperate, haggard BC premier just tossed out the province’s second largest tax cut in history which will go mostly to the rich, to shore up his pathetic level of support.

This will create another funding crisis for public services which will lead to the “tough choices” required to balance the budget with a voluntary reduction in revenue. It’s quite shameful.

Back to Scholastic and their slogan, “Helping Children Around The World To Read And Learn,” they are more than happy to trumpet noble claims about pursuing literacy, but like many corporate social responsibility projects, that kind of altruism is not at the expense of profit goals; they aren’t a non-profit, after all.

But it’s when I read how Scholastic defines themselves that I become even more disturbed with the funding crisis and back-door privatization of BC’s public education system:

For over 50 years Scholastic Canada has introduced young people to the joys of reading, and has enlarged their understanding of Canada and the world.

Just let’s be clear here. Parents, families, public library, communities and schools are the ones introducing young people to the joys of reading. Scholastic offers inexpensive books that, among a small percentage of really good literature, largely promote popular entertainment brands already bombarding students in other media. In one sense, the books could be free because they are essentially ads for Taylor Swift and Captain Underpants.

By the way, yesterday, Scholastic’s stock price on the NASDAQ exchange rose by US$1.02 to close at US$30.59. This makes their 34.5 million shares worth just over one billion dollars. Clearly, the private delivery of books into public schools is big business around the world. Scholastic should be sending kickback “commissions” to the BC Liberal Party.

By the way, yesterday on the NASDAQ, Microsoft closed at only US$27.39.

So while the BC Liberal government is contributing to manufactured funding crises in public education, many schools’ Parent Advisory Committees have turned into de facto fundraising committees to soften the blow. But one of the social costs of this arrangement is a massive disparity in funding, which undermines the universality principle: one Vancouver west side school’s PAC last year collected 30 times more revenue than a school only one-fifth its size on the east size.

One solution might be to turn Parent Advisory Committees from fundraisers into the other kind of PAC, Political Action Committees. As the Liberals’ massive defunding of the education system forces school boards to choose which schools to close, perhaps we need more political action, even from schools that aren’t facing closure in 8 months.

A little solidarity can go a long way. And we desperately need it now.

And while fundraising and funding crises are not unique to BC or to public education itself, our solidarity must span the sectors where citizens are having to make the difference when governments want to cut taxes for the rich.

The sooner we get organized, the sooner we can stop the fiscal beatings.