Joy Alexander: The B.C. Liberals fired me. Why am I running again?

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      I was hired by Vancouver voters in 2014, and fired by Christy Clark in 2016—together with the entire Vancouver school board.

      We refused to pass a budget that closed neighbourhood schools and cut important programs like band and strings, and ESL learning. We stood up to the NPA opposition who rubber-stamped Christy Clark’s disastrous public education agenda. We advocated for students at every opportunity.

      Why am I running again? Because I was dismissed before having the opportunity to finish what we started—what Vancouver voters elected me to do when I first put my name forward as a candidate.

      In 2014, I told voters that I knew the issues; I’m a former classroom teacher in Vancouver’s elementary schools. I’ve spent a career working to help students with learning difficulties as a resource room teacher. I told voters I hold a PhD in educational psychology, and worked as a school psychologist in Vancouver, and in private practice. I told them I worked as adjunct professor at university, teaching others to work with children in the school system, and that I worked with children with learning difficulties and special needs. I told them I worked with Aboriginal children, ESL students, and would continue to champion safer schools for LGBTQ2S+ students.

      I’m running again because I keep my promises. The B.C. Liberal government fired the democratically elected Vancouver school board, and now Vancouver residents don’t have a voice at the table. I’m running to finish what we started together.

      Vision trustees led the board’s development of a five-year facilities plan that would complete seismic upgrades to make our schools safer. We worked to make our schools more sustainable, and to green the school district. We improved graduation rates for Aboriginal students, and we fought hard (too hard, in the eyes of the provincial government) to keep programming open for adult learners, and stood up to the previous government, who tried to close neighbourhood schools.

      By keeping schools open, Vancouver now has the space to implement the Supreme Court of Canada’s ruling against the previous provincial government—Vancouver now has room for students and teachers. Other districts were not so lucky.

      My Vision Vancouver colleagues also worked hard to foster good working relationship with the district’s teachers and our other shareholder groups. I know firsthand that a good working relationship with teachers has not always been the case within the Vancouver school board, and I was particularly pleased that we could play a leadership role in building these relationships.

      During my time on the Vancouver school board, Vision trustees advocated tirelessly for increased funding from the provincial government.  Chronic underfunding over the past 16 years—think about that length of time in a student’s K-12 experience—has led to unmaintained schools, schools that are not seismically upgraded, reduction in support for special needs children, closure of facilities for adult learners, cuts to band and string programs, and cuts to French immersion programmes. Chronic underfunding has created a less than ideal atmosphere to work in. 

      As trustees, we were sometimes criticized for being advocates rather than governors. Being a governor at the Vancouver school board under the old provincial government was like being asked to rearrange the chairs on the Titanic. It was crystal clear to everyone that we needed more funds to provide for the students of Vancouver and advocacy was the only way, I saw, of obtaining those funds. And it worked—we may have been a thorn in the government’s side, but we secured millions of additional dollars for Vancouver classrooms.

      In the spring of 2016 the board was faced with passing a budget which, along with many cuts to programming, reduced support for early literacy. Our staff had done an incredible job to keep the cuts away from students but the level of underfunding meant that they simply could not keep all the cuts from direct programming. I knew that I could not in good conscience support the budget (I spent a lifetime working on early literacy) and so, along with the other Vision trustees and the Green Party trustee, I voted against the budget. Christy Clark’s government held a press conference and dismissed the entire board. 

      Although it was a difficult decision, I like to think that our actions had a small part in the fall of a provincial government, which was bent on bringing public education to its knees.

      We now have a new government in Victoria, and there is a feeling of optimism in our school system. I would very much like to be part of working with this new government. After so many years of underfunding, the list of areas to address is almost endless. To have a first-class education system that meets the needs of every child in the system, we can’t be daunted by the length of the list.

      But in particular, I will be looking to advance the implementation of the class-size and composition policy; the timely completion of seismic upgrades; “right-sizing” schools rather than closing them; addressing the deferred maintenance issues; using school facilities to expand childcare spaces in Vancouver; building school playgrounds with public money rather than through parent fundraising; restoring programming to early literacy, special education, band and strings, and French immersion; and the ongoing improvement of our Aboriginal focus school. You can find our complete platform on Vision Vancouver’s website.

      To address these issues with any degree of success within the one year remaining before the next general election, I believe we need a combination of trustees with experience as well as trustees with “new eyes”. The Vision slate has just that combination. That is why I would urge you to vote for me, Joy Alexander, and the full slate of Vision candidates for school board in the upcoming election on October 14.

      Joy Alexander is a former school psychologist with a doctorate degree in psychology. First elected in 2014, she is running for reelection with the Vision Vancouver team. Follow her on Twitter @JoyFromTrail.