Jane Bouey: Everything is not fine in Vancouver’s classrooms

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      “Whew, glad that’s over!” That was how many of us felt when an agreement, that included increased support for learning, was reached between the provincial government and the B.C. Teachers’ Federation. In Vancouver, over 50,000 students were again in school. Thousands of classroom teachers and other hard-working VSB employees are again providing excellent public education.

      Many of us were elated last June, when despite well-organized objections from a small number of opponents, the Vancouver school board updated its sexual orientation and gender identities policy that will help make our schools safer, more inclusive, and welcoming for all students.

      We would love to think that everything is now fine in the classrooms.

      But everything is definitely not okay. A key lesson of the teachers’ strike was that public education funding per student in B.C. is amongst the lowest in Canada. The next provincial budget is projected to continue the under-funding trend, and download more costs onto school boards. School boards across the province, including Vancouver, are being crushed by the accumulating impacts of more than a decade of underfunding. That means larger class sizes, less teacher-librarians, more cuts to maintenance, delays to seismic upgrades, more pressure to close schools. It means more fundraising, and more donations of supplies by teachers. It means even less help for students who need it most. Those who face extra barriers such as learning disabilities, English as an additional language, racism, poverty, and harassment. Despite the board’s updated inclusion policies, there is no budget to train staff to help students harassed due to their sexual orientation or gender identity, or for other reasons.

      What can we do? Already, an entire generation of Vancouver students have gone from kindergarten through secondary school, impacted by relentless cutbacks. Solutions can’t wait until the next election, the next round of bargaining, or a Supreme Court decision years in the future.

      The only alternative is to step up the pressure, to demand that the provincial government treat public education as a vital component of a just and democratic society—not a so-called “burden on taxpayers”. The Public Education Project is one way to keep up that pressure, and that’s why I am running in this election.

      During my two previous terms as a trustee (2002-05 and 2008-11), I was proud to be part of boards that tried to keep the cuts out of the classrooms. We didn’t always succeed, but we relentlessly advocated for full funding of public schools, and we combed the annual budgets to find savings that would allow us to put every possible dollar into better teaching and learning conditions, making schools better for both students and staff. I am particularly proud of my own work on developing the VSB’s sexual orientation and gender identities policy, and of my efforts to defend students and families facing poverty, racism, and extra learning challenges.

      Yes, I want be a school trustee again, to continue this unfinished work. Maybe my chances on November 15 would have been better if I had sought a nomination from one of the main civic electoral parties. But this time, I was proud to file my nomination papers, together with Gwen Giesbrecht, as a Public Education Project candidate. This is a truly unique initiative. For the first time in Vancouver history, a party has been formed to focus solely on public education, without being completely drowned out by—or drawn into—the strident debates at city hall. This time, every vote for a Public Education Project candidate is a vote for better public education, and Christy Clark will have to pay attention.

      I am already enjoying this campaign. For the first time, I can focus completely on standing up for public education, for safer, more welcoming, inclusive schools that celebrate diversity. Education is too important to be pushed to the sidelines in this election, and our message is resonating everywhere across the city.

      The current Vision majority on the VSB has done good work. Under chair Patti Bacchus, the Vision trustees have been courageous critics of the Liberal government’s policies. Their vote for more inclusive schools was welcomed by the B.C. Safer Schools Coalition, which I helped to organize last spring. They deserve support, and other progressive candidates who truly value public education are also on the ballot.

      But this is a moment which cries out for new ideas, new strategies, and especially for candidates who will put the needs and interests of public education ahead of sectarian politics. When the next round of budget cuts looms, we need trustees to say that it’s no longer good enough to work hard to minimize the damage. Our students, and our hard-working teachers and education staff, deserve better. They need trustees who will work with teachers, parents, students, and the community to mobilize for full funding of public education. The time has come to vote for public education, and to reject the strategy of endless compliance budgets. If you agree, help to make public education front and centre in this election, and vote for Public Education Project candidates on November 15.

      Comments

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      26 Comments

      MannyHo

      Oct 14, 2014 at 1:01pm

      Let's also do something about over-crowded classrooms and students that are passed to the next grade when they should be held back, because it's more convenient for the student to be moved along through the school system to get them out as quickly as possible.

      Felix

      Oct 14, 2014 at 4:00pm

      This point by Jane Bouey is absolutely on the mark: "The time has come to vote for public education, and to reject the strategy of endless compliance budgets." As long as the province keeps under-funding school boards, the quality of education will fail to meet the needs of students. If trustees and other stakeholders accept this process, every compliance budget means that students suffer the consequences. Most Boards, including Vancouver, have long ago eliminated any "extras" from their budgets. We need trustees who will challenge the Premier's "create a crisis" agenda, which is a deliberate attempt to undermine public education and drive families towards private schools.

      bobo

      Oct 14, 2014 at 4:08pm

      Of course everything is not fine in BC's classrooms. The teachers union is back. The smart parents have enrolled their students in private schools.

      RUK

      Oct 14, 2014 at 4:14pm

      Manny, how convenient do you think it is for that student who isn't up to scratch with his or her peers, to be moved into the next level where the work is even harder?

      How convenient is it for the teacher at the next level who has a kid that didn't understand the previous level? How convenient is it for the system which has to put in methods and personnel to detect, approach, counsel and develop that kid into meeting age-appropriate learning outcomes?

      I don't think it is convenient for anyone!

      But it would, I think, avoid stigmatizing that kid which would surely drive him or her out of the school system entirely. And that is another kid that fell out, and unless there is some awesome job awaiting a dropout - are there those jobs anymore? - the outcome is not gonna be good

      Nic Slater -Delta School Trustee Candidate

      Oct 14, 2014 at 4:28pm

      Thank you Jane Bouey and company for standing up for our Public Schools. Its time to push back against the privatization of BC's Public Schools.

      What, you don't believe its happening! Did you know there is now only one Public School left in New Orleans and the situation throughout the USA is not much better.

      Our BC Liberal Gov'ts conservative moral values dictate that everyone must pay thru the nose for their education, but an affordable education that enriches society is what we need. Our Public Education system is BC's most valuable resource and now is the time to support it by electing progressive candidates like myself and the rest Delta's <a href="https://www.facebook.com/deltakidsmatter?notif_t=page_new_likes">KIDS MATTER</a> slate.

      Doktor

      Oct 14, 2014 at 8:14pm

      It'd be really nice if the moderator wouldn't allow partisan political ads barely masquerading as posts. Just my 2 cents.

      bobo

      Oct 14, 2014 at 9:02pm

      Hey Nick Slater - Delta School Trustee Candidate, If you think there is only one public school left in New Orleans, then you reallllly need to go back to school yourself. That is the dumbest statement I have heard in years. Are you telling me that almost every student in New Orleans is in a private school. YOU HAVE OBVIOUSLY NEVER BEEN TO NEW ORLEANS. I have been there countless times (last time 3 years ago), and there are plenty of public schools. IN FACT, THERE ARE MORE PUBLIC SCHOOL STUDENTS IN NEW ORLEANS THAN THERE ARE PRIVATE SCHOOL STUDENTS. Get your facts straight. It's people like you that make people like me not trust the teachers union if they support statements like that.

      Jennifer

      Oct 14, 2014 at 9:30pm

      Nic Slater and Jane Bouey, you certainly won't get my vote. Union supporters are losing the momentum especially after the ugly teachers' strike. Good for the Liberals to give families choices in education. Parents are tired of the strikes and constant pushing of BCTF ideologies that has nothing to do with education excellence. It is all under the name of "public education" and "Kids Matter." BC public education is much better off without BCTF and its supporters. With the student enrollment going down every year, why should the government inject more of the taxpayers' money into the system that is encouraging mediocrity and non-competence?

      Martin Dunphy

      Oct 14, 2014 at 10:08pm

      Doktor:

      To encourage voting, the <em>Straight</em> actively solicits and encourages commentaries from all candidates during every municipal-election campaign in order to give its readers the widest possible input on political platforms.

      ACMESalesRep

      Oct 14, 2014 at 10:24pm

      bobo: No, the parents who've bought into the idea that their kids are too good for public schools and who can afford to do so have enrolled their kids in private schools. The rest of us continue to fight for the one strong, well-funded public education system the province is legally obliged to provide, the one that requires teachers certified to teach in the province and that offers a high-quality education to all students regardless of their parents' ability to pay.