COLUMN; Minister, look at needs of education system
A letter to B.C. Education Minister Peter Fassbender:
For the 17 years that my children have been in the education system, I have been extremely lucky to have a job with flexible hours. I was able to volunteer at my children’s schools and it has been an incredible experience. I have had the opportunity to drive on field trips, volunteer in classrooms, run fundraisers and sit on school planning councils (SPCs) and parent advisory councils (PACs). I have worked with teachers, administrators and coaches.
When I started volunteering as part of the school community, sitting on SPCs was exciting. While working on school plans, we would research best practices in helping struggling learners; at a district level, we would have evenings trying to decide our priorities in spending.
Very quickly, however, SPCs became about how far we could push class size and composition. At the district level, it became about deciding on what could be cut.
In the 2010/’11 school year, my fellow SPC parent rep and I became horrified at the class composition at the middle school level and the time, effort and money spent on grievances. We wrote to George Abbott, who was then the minister of education. The response was to take up the issue with our school board. We followed his advice and the response from the board was that there was not enough funding to address class composition issues.
Three years on, with further cuts in the education system, the ministry is still refusing to acknowledge the issues. You govern through talking points indicating that there is more per-pupil funding than ever. Even after being presented with a binder full of families’ stories highlighting the lack of services, you stood in the house and repeated your talking points. A teacher presented you with documented class size and composition issues, and there is still silence from you. You gleefully announce our graduation rate without acknowledging that the students graduating today only saw the beginning of cuts.
You tell us the education system must wait until the economy improves before we will see additional funding. We would wait if we could but we cannot tell kids who need extra services to wait. Their needs are now.
Are we to let a generation fall behind while we wait for the economy to improve? We are already seeing a drop in international testing scores. We will soon be seeing a drop in graduation rates.
Mr. Fassbender, I urge you and your government to acknowledge the problems with our system. I beg you to look at the needs of the system and calculate resources needed rather than imposing a budget that does not consider increased costs. Bring resources to the table to repair some of the damage done to the system. Settle with the teachers.
And when peace is restored in the system, we will need to talk about funding for supplies, technology, seismic upgrading and capital projects.
Ramona Chu is a Coquitlam resident and mother.