Image: Flickr/Province of British Columbia

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Human nature — and to a larger extent animal instinct — tells us that when someone is backed into a corner by a force bigger then them, they will either surrender or fight back.
Each year the B.C. Liberals demand more funding cuts while the school boards see operating costs rise. Boards surrender to these demands and they agonize over what could possibly be cut from their already bare-bones budget.

They look at cutting bus services, janitorial and maintenance positions, teaching positions, librarians, secretaries, special needs teachers, student support programs. They cut back instructional time, they add an extra week to spring break and they close neighbourhood schools all to keep inline with the B.C. Liberals mandated cuts.

Much like a game of Jenga, boards are being forced to remove the very foundation of our public school system, one block at a time, until eventually the whole thing will collapse. Boards often take the brunt of public backlash too, with parents crying foul over their children’s school closing or losing services, programs and instructional time.

Unfortunately in the past many parents couldn’t look beyond the boards’ decisions to see that the real culprit behind these decisions were in fact the B.C. Liberal government who somewhere along the line decided that public education is not a priority in this province. 

But times change and parents are starting to wake up. We can now see our school boards backed into that corner with Clark and Bernier looming above like a dark cloud demanding more cuts from a system that is barley functioning as it is.

We see $341 million pouring into private schools every year, schools that can already afford state of the art equipment/facilities, small class sizes, one on one time not to mention the advertising they pay for to try and attract more students.

We see the deteriorating, unsafe buildings that our children are forced into every day potentially risking their lives in the event of an earthquake. We see how this ridiculous notion of 95 per cent capacity is forcing school closures (over 260 since 2002) and overcrowding. We see our children getting fewer opportunities, fewer experiences, less support and less learning time.
Well it appears that some boards have finally had enough and they are refusing to pass a balanced budget. They are going to fight their way out of the corner they’ve been backed into for so many years. But they cannot do it alone. To be successful they will need parents to keep their voices loud and their actions clear. We must stand behind these trustees who are brave enough to risk everything for the greater good of our public education system. 
Some would call the move risky, because by not passing a balanced budget they have left themselves open to be fired and replaced by a special government-appointed individual. But I would ask what is the alternative? Should Vancouver close 19 neighbourhood schools, then charge those parents hundreds of dollars every year to bus their kids elsewhere like what other districts have resorted to? Should they cut supports for LGBTQ students? Should they fire a bunch of teachers and try and cram even more students into understaffed classrooms? Should they cut Special Needs support which are spread thin as it is?

Hell, maybe they should just shorten the school year to six months. I’m sure that would save a bunch of money.

Personally I would like to see all boards pass only a needs budget and refuse to balance the budget at the expense of further cuts to our children’s education. Although I realize that is more of a pipe dream at this point. Families Against Cuts to Education is compiling a list that as of today shows 27 districts with a shortfall totalling $77.17 million so perhaps there will be more then just Vancouver and Saanich that take this brave stand.  

Just remember that it isn’t just our trustees that are backed into this corner, it is our entire public education system and our children’s future as well. If we allow Vancouver or Saanich to be fired like Cowichan trustees were years ago, this will only open the doors to even deeper cuts and more closures and will surely set an example for other boards that might question or stand up against these devastating cuts.

This could very well be a make-or-break moment in time for public education in B.C., please make sure you are standing on the right side of the fence.”

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Image: Flickr/Province of British Columbia

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Sarah Miller

Sarah Miller was born and raised on Vancouver Island. While enjoying the island life Sarah developed an early passion for writing, photography and art. In recent years she has become a strong advocate...