NEWS

Corporate sponsorship in schools: Right or wrong?

11/03/2014 05:01 EST | Updated 01/03/2015 05:59 EST
Oil company Chevron's contributions to school projects have fuelled a debate over whether B.C. schools should accept the money to help buy school supplies and fund projects through the company's "Fuel Your School" program.

When a customer buys more than 30 litres of gas from Chevron, one dollar goes towards the program.

The Vancouver School Board has refused the contributions, while five other school districts in Surrey, Burnaby, Coquitlam, North Vancouver, and West Vancouver agreed to participate.

A debate was sparked when Vancouver NPA mayoral candidate Kirk LaPointe, who running against Vision Vancouver's Gregor Robertson, raised the question as a civic election campaign issue.

LaPointe has suggested the city should not be so quick to dismiss the funding program and elected school trustees should evaluate it.

Vancouver says no to Chevron

The Vancouver School Board decided not to partner with Chevron over concerns there would be strings attached.

Patti Bacchus, who is the chair of the Vancouver School Board, said the district has a strong policy to keep big companies from swaying how students think.

"The education part, the classroom part should be publicly funded and should be adequately publicly funded. And we need to keep that corporate influence away from classrooms and that's a very important line," she said.

B.C. Education Minister Peter Fassbender says it's up to each school district to make its own decisions.

"Partnerships with the private sector and with corporations, as long as it does not compromise the integrity of the education system or anything like that is worth taking a look at," said Fassbender.

He said, "And some districts have done that and have participated and from what I understand are getting great results."

Surrey accepts $200,000 in sponsorship

Last fall, the Surrey School District accepted nearly $200,000 for about 200 science, technology and engineering projects across the city. The funds were administered by a charity called MyClassNeeds.

Surrey became the first district in Canada to partner with Chevron's campaign "Fuel Your School".

Spokesperson for the Surrey School District, Doug Strachan, explains how few people would have noticed where the money came from.

"The only thing we really committed to do in public was to have a ceremony thanking them and that is something we would routinely do anyway for a significant sponsorship or donation," said Strachan. 

The arguments for and against Chevron's funding program are being discussed on social media by political opponents, however, it's unclear what influence the discussion will have on the Vancouver civic election.

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