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Stop Downplaying The Underfunding Of B.C. Schools

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MIKEBERNIER
THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
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Dear Mike Bernier,

I write to you today regarding your recent comments about our public schools in B.C. and how you believe there are only a few small groups who believe there are funding issues.

I have to say that I am both shocked and disheartened to know that the very person charged with overseeing our public schools can be so blind to the very obvious issues plaguing our public education system.

I would like to give you the benefit of the doubt, as I am assuming you have spent little to no time in any of our public schools since obtaining your new position as minister of education. Personally I feel as though it should be mandatory for someone in your position to spend a substantial amount of time visiting the schools for which you are responsible for, which would help ensure that you are truly in touch with our education system and not simply following a pre-determined mandate of cuts and denial.

If you truly believe there are no funding issues in our public schools, then I assume you think it is the job of parents and PACs to raise upwards of $30,000 a year to supply basic necessities for their children's school.

Do you think a child's education should be absent of things like earthquake supplies, sports equipment, music equipment, sound systems for assemblies, basic classroom supplies, art supplies, recess equipment, sports equipment, sexual education, field trips, school planners or classroom books, since these things are now paid for by PAC fundraising?

Do you think that giving students in B.C. $1,000 less than the national average will offer them the best opportunities in their education?

I guess you also see no problem with deferring major and even basic maintenance to our children's schools -- like fixing leaky roofs, repairing boarded-up, unsafe playgrounds and, of course, the much more concerning seismic upgrades.

Maybe you can explain to me how your government sees no issue holding upgrading funds hostage, as if our children's safety should only be ensured if their school's capacity is maximized? Or why a leaky roof would never be allowed to continue for 20 years in any government building/office, court house, hospital, any workplace or even a residence with children, but somehow when it is in a public school, it is perfectly acceptable?

In my son's school district, 40 per cent of the schools are considered "beyond their useful life" and we have $97 million in deferred maintenance.

Despite closing 14 schools since 2002 and making drastic cuts to services, teaching positions, programs, admin costs and positions, we still have issues securing funding for these much-needed projects. And we are simply one out of 60 school districts in this province, a mere drop in the bucket.

If there are no funding issues, can you please explain why all of these much-needed upgrades and repairs are not being completed?

Also, I feel that I should point out that it is more then just a few small groups that have expressed the need for better funding.

Of course we have the B.C. Teacher's Foundation, which has spoken out for over a decade about the funding decreases. BCTF represents around 30,000 teachers who all see first hand the devastating effects of funding cuts.

We have multiple trustees, entire school boards and even the British Columbia School Trustees Assocation, which has written letters expressing the need for better funding.

Also, much like the letter written by my district's board, these letters are often signed and supported by multiple partner groups such as CUPE, the B.C. School Superintendents Association, the B.C. Principal's and Vice Principal's Association, the B.C. Association of School Business Officials, First Nations, DPACs and other parent and partner groups.

PACs and DPACs have expressed concern over cuts to funding. In fact there have been numerous parent groups that have been created strictly to advocate for better funding for public education: Families Against Cuts to Education, Protect Public Education Now and the Parent Advocacy Network for Public Education just to name a few.

Other parents have started blogs like fixbced, written letters to media and government, started post card campaigns, created numerous Facebook groups, written articles/blog posts, started petitions, held rallies, held pots and pan marches, spoke to media and met with MLAs. Members of FACE even presented at the provincial budget consultations.

There are thousands of parents in this province who have expressed concern for their children's education due to funding cuts in some form or another.

For you to simply brush off all of these concerns and efforts from not only multiple parents and parent groups, but also from every group that works in or around our public schools is rather ignorant and shows a brazen disregard for the position you hold in this province.

Please consider visiting some public schools, talking to students, teachers and staff and understanding the very real issues our public schools are facing everyday.

Sincerely,
Sarah Miller

Concerned parent, Independent blogger and FACE organizer

P.S. Please stop using student outcomes to justify that the funding system works. The only ones who deserve credit for these high outcomes achieved in spite of the underfunding issues are the students themselves and the ones who teach, guide and inspire them -- the very teachers that your government constantly attacks and vilifies.

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