I am a mother of three children in the B.C. public school system and I am very worried about the state it is in. One of my biggest concerns is the fact that our public schools are consistently receiving less funding, resulting in them relying on the parents and PACs (Parent Advisory Committees) to make up the difference.
Recently I found out that my son's elementary school PAC raised $35,000 last year to fund things like school camps, guest teachers (art, science, music), a reading incentive program, classroom funds, breakfast/lunch program, field trips and classroom technology. Without all these things my children would only have the "bare bones" of education. Some of this was given to us in a gaming grant but the rest was raised and donated by our parents.
However, not all schools are in the same position; many schools in B.C. are located in mid- to low-income neighbourhoods. These schools couldn't even dream of providing some of the things I just listed; in fact their PAC fundraising can only address the basic needs of the school.
I have heard some horror stories from my fellow B.C. parents about how their schools are suffering. A school in Nelson is so old and rundown that one-third of their budget goes just to heating the 110-year-old building. This leads to the school having to downgrade other programs in order to meet their budget.
A parent of another school told me that in their woodworking class they use cardboard instead of wood and that their sports teams are encouraged to buy their own equipment due to the terrible condition the school equipment is in.
Many schools have lost their band programs and music classes altogether and their music teachers have lost their jobs, all because the funding just isn't there. These lower income schools typically end up with fewer field trips, resources, and classroom technology than schools in higher income areas. The decline of public education funding has created a "have and have not situation."
Parents are also paying way more than we should have to. There was a time when many of those things were covered by the public school system. When my oldest child started school 12 years ago, the school bus was free. Now it is $300 per child in my district and if you times that by three kids, it is now out of the "affordability zone" for my family. When school starts I will now have to spend over an hour a day driving my children to three different schools because I have no other options.
Parents are also requested to pay the activity and transportation costs for field trips. In some school districts with little PAC funding the parents have to pay 100 per cent of these costs. Many parents also supply items for science experiments, holiday crafts, cooking classes and other class activities.
Then there is the issue of school supplies. I have watched the list steadily lengthen over the years. This year alone, I have spent $300 just so my children can have adequate supplies for school. Not to mention that their supply lists include ridiculous items like Kleenex, photocopy paper and Ziploc bags. If our schools don't even have the funding to supply children with something to wipe their noses with, then, like one parent said to me, "What's next, toilet paper?"
When I add up all the expenses that parents are asked to cover and include all school fundraisers that I have purchased to help, I realize that I have invested a lot of money. Money that should be covered by our education system! Why is our tax money not being spent on something as important as education but we can pay to have a new roof put on BC Place Stadium?
No matter which school your children attend, parents and teachers are expected to pick up the slack or your children's education will suffer. They're willing to do this because we all want what is best for the kids. The problem is that the government counts on that fact and does nothing.
If a school doesn't have the means to make up the funding shortfall, then they just slip through the cracks and those children lose their right to a quality education. Parents need to wake up and realize what is at stake here. It is not in the best interest for any of us to have an inequitable education system. We need to be outraged! We need to refuse to allow this to happen to our families! Otherwise I am very fearful of what is coming in our future.
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