Column: Tied hands

Stories that didn’t make the headlines this past week.

Stories that didn’t make the headlines:

Public education has been short-changed for years but nobody seems to care. Unlike other local governments, school boards can’t raise taxes. Regardless of students’ needs, they have only the money the provincial government feels like giving them. Underfunding leaves school trustees holding the bag. Afraid to protest lest they be fired by the education minster, they close schools, drop programs and do whatever it takes to meet the imposed budget. Independent schools seem to rate higher with the government. In the 2005/06 school year, the Ministry of Education increased the funding for them by 61 per cent, public schools by 20 per cent.

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A recent study of Washington and Oregon forests found pine beetles may not be the wildfire hazard they are thought to be. The study, which analyzed 81 fires over 25 years, found forests that had greater insect damage burned with “less severity regardless of drought conditions or fire size.” Some environmentalists doubted the fire hazard from the start, but the senior governments, fearing uncontrollable wildfires, spent over $1 billion to fund generous AACs and large scale clearcutting. As a result of the study, some are wondering if this was a poor idea in the long term. The U.S. study may not apply to B.C., but surely our forest ministry will have a good look at it before dealing with future bug infestations.

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Kid power? Claiming they have a “fundamental right to a healthy environment” eight Washington youngsters launched a court case against the state Department of Ecology last year asking for carbon dioxide reductions needed to protect oceans and climate system. They lost the first round but appealed what they called “the denial” of their right to act on behalf of themselves and future generations. In a landmark decision last week, King County Superior Court Judge Hollis Hill ordered the department to “promulgate an emissions reduction rule by the end of 2016 and make recommendations to the state legislature on science-based greenhouse gas reductions in the 2017 legislative session.” She also ordered the department to consult with the young petitioners.

Diana French is a freelance columnist for the Tribune. She is a former Tribune editor, retired teacher, historian, and book author.

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