Gwen Giesbrecht: Funding public education is too important to depend upon donations

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      This is my second campaign for election to the Vancouver school board of trustees. Jane Bouey and I are seeking election under the banner of the Public Education Project. We are a group of parents, students, teachers, staff and community members who feel that we are at a critical point for public education in British Columbia. As candidates for an organization that is specifically education-orientated and dedicated to electing school board trustees, we aim to bring focus to education issues in the upcoming municipal elections in Vancouver.

      I first became involved with the Vancouver school board in 2003 as a mother active in my child’s public elementary school. As a single parent with a modest income, I felt pressured to contribute to the many fundraising activities that were becoming an increasing feature of public education as the first cuts to funding under the B.C. Liberals were being felt. Fees and fundraising appeals, fewer supports for teachers, students, and families, ever increasing costs and less funding, has become the backdrop for the entire length of my son’s participation in public education.

      My support for public education, my work in the VSB as a parent representative, and my advocacy to promote fully funded and inclusive schools has become the other backdrop. Equity of outcome for all students, building strong communities that support families, and working to ensure that all citizens have their spot in the Vancouver sun has become my personal goal.

      I’ve been a representative on the District Parent Advisory Council (DPAC) executive, a long-term member of the Britannia Community Services Centre, the chair of the Britannia Secondary PAC, and a member of the advisory committee for the Vancouver Campaign for a Living Wage for Families. Through my active participation as a volunteer, my awareness and understanding of how families struggle with the problems posed by what has become chronic provincial and federal underfunding has been greatly informed.

      Working as a volunteer has given me the opportunity to look critically at some of the deficiencies in our society, and to work with informed individuals in creating solutions. Often solutions come by working with other groups and organizations with an overlapping challenge related to the same issues. Removing the barriers of silos, silence and separation can result in doors opening, meaningful dialogue occurring and problem solving. Drawing the line that connects schools to community, families to communities, and communities to government is key to building a healthy, just, inclusive and vibrant society.

      At this juncture, it is really important to make services to support families a top priority. While full funding is a critical piece of the support picture, it is not the only one. There needs to be full recognition that families and their children are the strongest link to building a world for the future that we all wish for. Educating children (and I mean all of them) to their fullest potential is the surest way to create that world. Educating children to their fullest potential means that the whole community needs to be involved and cognizant of the benefits. Students have families, families have communities. I believe in strengthening the ties between schools and the broader community. We need to work hard to make sure that everyone is on board in supporting initiatives, having the dialogue, and finding the way that provides, according to their ability, success for every student.

      I feel that parent supplemental funding, corporate, and charitable donations pose a danger to the direction of public education. Funding public education is too important to depend upon donations. As a community volunteer, I am motivated by my ongoing commitment to advocate for schools as the touchstone of every neighbourhood. As a Public Education Project candidate for school board, I will, if elected, bring my experience, energy and passion to the Vancouver board of school trustees.