Joy Alexander: Public schools are under attack and need support

Quality public education is a fundamental pillar of Canadian society. Public education lifts people from poverty and equalizes opportunities. It helps to reduce crime and promotes bright futures. A well-educated populace allows us to enjoy the way of life we expect in B.C.

Further, public education promotes lifelong understanding and empathy for people of diverse ethnic, religious, and socio-economic backgrounds. What our children learn in school forms the basis for a caring society.

But good public education doesn’t just happen. It takes committed communities and local government. It takes a provincial government willing to provide proper funding. It takes university-level teacher training programs that deliver the highest standard of courses. It takes supported, respected, and competent teachers.

I am concerned and saddened when some parents opt out of the public system and seek out private or independent schooling. When faced with difficulties in public schools, such as the present labour negotiations, some parents look to private education as a short-term solution for their child. This can lead to a two-tiered system and contribute to a class system or a gated community mentality that is seen in many parts of the United States.

I am a product of B.C.’s public education system and my three sons attended Vancouver public schools. My grandchildren will go to public school.

Vancouver public schools are doing a good job but they are under attack, lacking both adequate funding and a respectful relationship with teachers.

Throughout my own education and for my first 10 years as a teacher there was no need for job action in education. Recent trends of confrontational bargaining must stop so children and youth can receive uninterrupted public education. Strong public voices are needed to ensure that public schooling receives the support and status it deserves.

Comments (10) Add New Comment
Bureaucracy & Greed
Nice but how about some proposals? I like the idea of a settlement that addresses BCTF concerns aside from salary & benefit increases for teachers, but neither side has an interest in pursuing such a structure. Currently there are too many accredited teachers in BC to warrant any salary increase and government should not be afraid to point that fact out. A settlement that addressed the needs of students, and they don't need their teachers to be paid more, would force the BCTF to drop the facade that their primary interest is "the children" or bite the bullet and go back to work. Not one penny for salary or benefit increases for teachers.

Given the inability of Liberal or NDP governments to reach negotiated settlements with the BCTF over the last 20 years it appears a large part of the problem is the leadership of the BCTF. Their intransigence and 19th century ideology have made it impossible for elected governments to find a peaceful resolution to contract talks. Neither government nor BCTF leadership address a key issue in education: the massive bureaucracies that grow even when student numbers decline. They decide where taxpayer money gets spent and how it gets accounted for: frontline service costs always include millions of hidden management costs through a range of accounting tricks.

Millions of dollars are wasted every year on salaried employees throughout the Province who officially have "lots to do" but zero responsability and no apparent influence on how schools are run. They see plenty of memos, read lots of emails with lengthy CC lists and have a fancy title. Their salaries start somewhere around $110,000, normal for low grade bureaucrats but very costly to taxpayers. Every new "concern" that appears in society is eagerly anticipated by bureaucrats because they can add more people to "manage" the issue. The VSB decided they needed to make more money from their facilities through rentals so they hired a new "manager" to handle doing what they already do without her/him. They decided they needed to "get hip" and hired another media coordinator for "social media" because that is essential to educating K - 12. Two positions that will eat up somewhere around $250,000 total when their benefits are taken into account. How many more postings have been added over the last decade of declining enrolments in Vancouver?
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Hazlit
As an American who grew up in big cities where the public schools were often not so good all I can say is that Ms. Alexander is right. If you don't want to pay $50K or more a year per child for education you have only one choice--public education.

Indeed when you support the "public" option, whether in education, arts, science, or healthcare through your generous tax revenues you end up saving yourself money. Privatization is a code-word for "higher prices than you would pay if it were public."
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E. Brown
Both my children attended private schools from K-12 and I know what dedicated teachers are. I never had to worry about them missing out on their education as the students are today. This labour dispute has disrupted everything for these students. I find it really difficult to believe the teachers are fighting for their students. We provided our children the best we could...and we're not rich either - another misconception about private schools. I hope this is settled quickly our students of B.C. deserve better.
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Cmax
I am one of those parents who have their child in a Private School. I support the BC Teachers 100% but my son has learning difficulties and I had to make the choice to ensure that he would be in smaller class size with lots of support. That kind of class unfortunately is not in the public school system at this time. I am lucky that we can afford a private school for my son, but angry that I need to. It is embarrassing and shameful that our Government will not invest in our children.
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Benny Klein
"I am concerned and saddened when some parents opt out of the public system and seek out private or independent schooling."

Translation: I don't like it when parents don't want their kids to be exposed to an increasingly dumbed-down curriculum (especially where math is concerned) and I am sad they can't be properly indoctrinated with the Social Marxist programs which we have worked so hard to develop.

Cry me a river lady.
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Hazlit
@Benny Klein,

What exactly is wrong with indoctrinating children to to be Social Marxists? Now that even China and Russia are chasing the capitalist cat a little socialism might be a good thing.
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E Brown
Mr. Klein, Independent schools follow the same curriculum as public schools. Students begin French in Kindergarten, they are exposed to the Arts and in some cases Religion is included. I don't understand your comment about math...they learn it just as public school kids do. The difference from a public to Independent school is for instance the Catholic school system has their own school board. Other reasons my children went to a private school..is students are failed if they don't make their grades...also zero tolerance for drugs, alcohol and bullying. They are expelled or suspended. Growing up I attended both private and public schools...so have experienced both and knew my children would go to a private school. It's a choice you make and shouldn't be judged for. Only half the tax dollars I paid went into the private system - as of now my kids have finished school and all my tax dollars are going into the public system - so I think I've paid my dues.
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Benny Klein
E. Brown,

This is the reason we pulled our children out from the public school system and now home school them instead.

http://www.macleans.ca/society/life/have-you-finished-your-homework-mom/

Math teaches logic and systematic problem solving. That's why it is targeted for dumbing down.
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Benny Klein
"What exactly is wrong with indoctrinating children to to be Social Marxists?"

I think your question just answered itself.
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Sarah
That 20 year number is probably directly attributable to province wide bargaining. And a government determined to destroy collective bargaining and break the union movement into pieces. You can't really pursue neoliberal economic policies when unions are strong.

The private school thing is a red herring at the moment, I believe. Much more important to deal with class size and composition and adequate funding.
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