I wasn’t always as political as I am today. I have always voted and made an effort to know the candidates and platforms out there before casting my vote. Beyond that politics was never a large part of my life.
All that changed the year my son was to start Kindergarten. On what would have been his very first day of school instead of being in his classroom we stood outside the fence of his school getting to know his teachers while we walked the line with them.
The teachers strike in 2014 was an eye opening experience for me and I immediately started researching how the system got to this point. The more I researched, the worse it looked. Parents fundraising for playgrounds, classroom supplies and text books. Unsafe and under maintained schools. The stripping of teachers contracts resulting in higher class sizes and an overwhelming loss of support positions within our schools. This was just the surface of a very ugly and long festering battle against public education in B.C., all orchestrated by our very own government.
It wasn’t long before I was writing blogs, organizing rallies and advocating in any way I could. After three years, nothing has changed, because the ones holding the power is our current Liberal government. Until we change our government this war on our children’s education will continue. It took 15 years of BCTF fighting them in court — a fight which the B.C. Liberals took all the way to the Supreme court of Canada (and lost) — before they were forced to reinstate those previously cut supports that have now affected an entire generation of children in B.C.
During these three years there have been two groups of people that have been there fighting and advocating with me every step of the way and that is the NDP and the BCTF. These two groups have fought long and hard to give a voice to the struggles in our public schools and have advocated for our children in more ways then one.
My MLAs, Doug Routley and Leonard Krog, have been very supportive of public education and have offered their help numerous times over the years. Doug Routley stood with parents against a school closure in a rural community and helped inspire one of those parents to run for a trustee position-which she did and ended up with more votes then any other candidate.
Rob Fleming — the NDP education critic — has reached out to me numerous times offering help. He has traveled the province to visit schools that are struggling with school closures and safety issues. He has attended and spoken at so many education rallie/events and brought these issues up at the Legislature so many times I have lost count.
John Horgan himself credits teachers with getting him where he is today after struggling through a rough period as a teenager. He has visited schools and helped bring attention to numerous issues including the insane overcrowding in Surrey that has resulted in over 7000 children learning in portables.
The NDP’s education platform reflects the concerns myself and other parents have been raising for years, including: Creating an ongoing capital fund for playgrounds and contributing $30 million to basic supplies (both of these are currently dependent on parent fundraising); A commitment to building new schools in areas that need it to address the out of control portable situations; Improving numerous aspects of First Nations based education including working towards offering full courses in Aboriginal language; Accelerating the very important seismic upgrades that have recently been pushed back another ten years by the Liberals.
But by far the most important aspect in their platform is “Acknowledging that a per pupil funding model doesn’t work for our diverse education system in B.C. and undertaking a comprehensive review.” The per pupil funding model was implemented in 2002 around the same time the Liberals tore up teachers’ contracts. Unlike the old “program and fund” model, the per pupil funding allows the government to dodge responsibility for increased costs while those costs then fall onto school boards who are forced to make cuts to programs and services for our children. While hydro, MSP, salaries and other operational costs continue to rise the government avoids having to provide increased funding for those costs.
So this election I am voting NDP because I am tired of fundraising tens of thousands of dollars every year for basic supplies. I am tired of special needs students spending years on wait lists for support they need to fully participate in their education. I am tired of our school board having to decided which service or support they will cut every year. I am tired of attending consultations for school closures that pit communities against each other in fights over which schools deserve to stay open.
I want to ensure that my son doesn’t spend his entire education in an underfunded and under supported system. I want him — and every child in BC — to have a fully funded public education system that helps them reach their full potential. I also want every child to have an education that is not dependent on how much their parents can fundraise or the income level of their community.
So I am voting NDP this election because they are the only party that can beat the B.C. Liberals and restore and invest in the children of this province by providing them with an fully funded and equal education.
I encourage everyone who is concerned about our public education system to consider doing the same. Because I cannot imagine what our schools will look like with another four years of downloaded costs and funding cuts.
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