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B.C. Needs to Value Parents' Opinions on Public Education

05/22/2015 03:51 EDT | Updated 05/22/2016 05:59 EDT
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Back in the early 2000s public education was a much more approachable subject, openly discussed by parents, teachers and society in general. Long before the stripping of contracts, strikes, underfunding and court cases that began when Christy Clark was B.C. minister of education. Somewhere between then and now public education and the funding that goes with it, has become a subject labelled, by many, as too "political" to openly discuss.

Before Clark decided to do everything in her power to turn parents and citizens against teachers, the main focus was on our students and schools. School-based discussions focused on what was needed for students, how to improve their learning environments and success rates. Teachers took part in these discussions and when they did it was never turned into "this teacher is asking for too much," there was a general understanding that teachers wanted what was best for their students.

During this time the idea was born to form an independent commission of dedicated citizens to travel the province and engage with people on the principles of public education. They held community meetings, which welcomed students, parents, teachers, school admin, trustees and community to attend and voice their opinions and thoughts regarding public education.

They gathered information heard at meetings through verbal presentations, open discussions and formal submissions, the result was the creation of the Charter for Public Education.

"Public Education is a Sacred Trust."

The Charter for Public Education is a public owned document, which stands as a testament to everything we as a community want and expect from our public school system, with the main focus being on what is best for the students. A document long forgotten somewhere between the never ending war against our public schools, funding cuts and dragged out court cases.

Somewhere along the lines we seem to have forgotten that this is our public school system, funded with our public tax money and as such we deserve a say in how it is run. We deserve to have our opinions valued and respected. We are, after all, talking about our children's education and the future of our province.

It should come as no surprise, this was the last time that citizens, parents, teachers or community were asked for their input regarding our public education system. Clark and Peter Fassbender have made it very clear, they care not for anyone's opinion but their own. Besides it works much better for them if teachers are left to advocate for better classroom conditions, that way they can portray it as a "working" condition ignoring the fact that classroom conditions directly affect our children's learning.

I did get one opportunity to share my opinion the other day when a satisfaction survey from the Ministry of Education was brought to my attention. Unfortunately it stood only to measure the satisfaction of my son's school and teachers, there was not one question to measure satisfaction of the funding, programs or support available.

Unless of course you count the question asking what programs I would like to see more of in my son's school. Some of the options included more arts, music, sports, languages and culture (just to name a few), which I find pretty ironic considering the latest round of cuts will leave absolutely no room to add programs (or anything else) to any of our schools. In fact Parent Advisory Committees already fund a lot of the sports and music equipment and teachers buy all their own art supplies.

Yes, I would love to see my child and every child exposed to more arts, music, culture, languages, sports and other programs in our public schools, the benefit to our students would be immeasurable. I would also love the ministry to explain to me how our school could see any of this without more funding? Do they expect our PAC, which already puts around $25,000 into our school every year, to add more fundraisers to the calendar?

A better question would be why we, as parents, have little to no say in something as crucial as our children's education? We have no say in funding, classes or trades offered, budget process, class size and composition and pretty much every aspect of a system our children spend 13 years learning in. If Bill 11 passes we won't even have a say in how our children's personal information is shared.

A person's education will not only shape how well they read and write, but it could also determine what career path they choose, what their hobbies, interests and passions could be, it can also have a huge impact on whether or not the go onto post secondary education.

We deserve the right to have a say in something that plays such a huge part in our children's development. Our government is currently starving our public schools to their breaking point and I believe they hold absolutely no value or regard for public education itself.

We need to stop relying on our government to do what's best for our children, and as parents and citizens we need to open up the dialogue around public education. We need to work together and focus on what's best for our children and society in general. The Charter for Public Education is a great place to start, it is after all, the last standing official document that shows what our communities really need and want in our public schools.

A passage from the Charter for Public Education states:

"As a community we promise to prepare learners for a socially responsible life in a free and democratic society, to participate in a world which each generation will shape and build. We promise a public education system which provides learners with knowledge and wisdom, protects and nurtures their natural joy of learning, encourages them to become persons of character, strength and integrity, infuses them with hope and with spirit, and guides them to resolute and thoughtful action."

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