Tri-Cities school board candidates should support public education, not snipe from sidelines

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The Editor,

Re. "Signs, tweets, talks" (The Tri-City News, Aug. 13).

Being a school trustee is an experience that is rewarding and frustrating in equal measure.

Trustees must answer to provincial government bureaucrats while steering a school system toward meeting the needs of increasingly diverse learners who are real people, not the statistics to which they are reduced by the province.

Victoria downloads costs and workload onto boards of education without a concomitant increase in funding, all the while telling them “the money is the money,” leaving school trustees trying to do more with less as costs increase and funding fails to keep pace.

School trustees are also lucky as they have a close-up view of the rich, inspired learning that takes place in local classrooms every day. But that means they see first-hand what we stand to lose as the province continues to underfund — and undermine — public education.

It is heartbreaking.

So why don’t trustees speak out more?

Because the provincial government can fire them in an instant, that’s why. Or it can send in a superintendent to “monitor” a quarrelsome board.

Nonetheless, the Coquitlam board of education, in publicly opposing the province’s actions, has decided that it’s more important to speak the truth than preserve their own jobs.

Lately, some school trustee candidates and their supporters have attacked the board for entering into the fray. Their complaint? The board is spending time, money and resources in advocating for students.

I understand that getting elected requires candidates to distinguish themselves from the incumbents. But in choosing to attack the board instead of working with them to marshal community support for public education, candidates are putting crass self-interest over the needs of the very students they say they want to serve.

Instead of sniping from the sidelines at exactly the moment our elected trustees need the most support, let candidates show us what they are made of by organizing in their neighbourhoods and communities in support of our common goals: a quality public education system supported by stable and adequate funding.

Now that would be a real show of leadership.

Debra Burton, Port Coquitlam


Editor's note: Ms. Burton served two terms as a Port Coquitlam school trustee, from 2002 to ’08.


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