As we near the end of the calendar year and are just over 100 days into the current school year, it is a time of reflection in our province. Many will recognize some positive steps made in public education during the year: the Supreme Court of Canada ruling on class size and composition continues to be implemented and funded; seismic projects are being announced with greater frequency; and there is increasing recognition of the value of public education and the undeniable deficiencies still present in a system which has faced chronic deprioritization for 16 years.
But public education isn’t yet the priority it should be, that is, as a societal benefit to all. Parents and families still await long-overdue changes that will make education more accessible and equitable for all learners across the province.
Parent advocacy continues and grassroots parent groups are working together now more than ever. On December 1, 2017, six parent advocacy groups--BCEdAccess, Nanaimo Parents Supporting Public Education, Parent Advocacy Network (incl FACE), Richmond Schools Stand United, Seismic Safety For BC Schools, Surrey Students Now—met with BC Premier John Horgan and Minister of Education Rob Fleming. The representatives of these six groups spoke with Premier Horgan and Minister Fleming about some key issues facing the public education system. Together, the parent representatives made six recommendations to the government.
We thank Premier Horgan and Minister Fleming for taking the time to listen to the collective parent voice, and we look forward to more such meetings in the future. Our recommendations are only the beginning of many changes that are required to provide a quality, equitable public education to all the children in our province. The Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services has also made some strong recommendations for public education funding in the 2018 Budget. We encourage the government to view our recommendations and the Committee’s recommendations as important steps on the road to building the public education system that BC’s children deserve.
About Our Non-Partisan Organizations
BCEdAccess has over 1250 parent members, from all over BC, and we are growing every day. Our mandate as grassroots volunteers is to advocate publicly for equitable access to education for students with special needs, and to provide their parents with support, education and training around that right.
Nanaimo Parents Supporting Public Education is an organization formed by parents concerned about the chronic underfunding of public education in BC and the effects it has on the quality of our children's education. We work to bring attention and awareness to issues within our public education system both locally and provincially.
The Parent Advocacy Network is a collective of parents and community members who share a commitment to public education. We work to address the devaluing of public education in Vancouver and across BC by holding government accountable and helping effect policy changes.
Richmond Schools Stand United is a parent-led group advocating for safe schools and equitable access to public education across our city and the province.
Seismic Safety For BC Schools is an advocacy group committed to ensuring all schools in BC are earthquake safe.
Surrey Students Now is a group composed of parents concerned for the education of the community’s children.
PAN is supporting the great work of our partners at the BC Poverty Reduction Coalition (BCPRC). Please join us and speak up on the issue of raising the minimum wage to $15/hour. Now is the opportunity to Tell the Fair Wages Commission it is Time for $15/hr in BC!
Organizations and individuals are invited to provide feedback to the commission by email – use the BCFed’s tool to send a quick email: http://www.fightfor15bc.ca/fairwages by December 7, 2017.
More details about meeting dates and locations, and how to make a written submission, are available at: engage.gov.bc.ca/fairwagescommission
Together we can!
On Friday, October 6th, we made our third annual presentation to the Legislative Finance Committee (Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services) highlighting public education funding needs for BC Budget 2018.
In it, we called on government to fulfill its commitment to British Columbians:
Read our full report, presented by Maggie Milne Martens and Heather Legal.
Make your own report or complete a survey on your thoughts for BC Budget 2018 by 5pm on October 16th.
UPDATE: Other presentations supporting public education:
UPDATE: Our follow-up to the Selection Standing Committee questions submitted October 16, 2017
The Parent Advocacy Network (PAN) encourages all citizens of Vancouver to exercise their democratic right to vote in the October 14th Vancouver by-election. Voters need to elect one Councillor and nine Trustees to the Vancouver Board of Education for a one year term.
It’s important to learn about ALL the candidates to make an informed choice; not just about their platforms and experience, but who they are and how they plan to effect change.
Two all-candidates forums were held earlier this week - one by Institute for Public Education and one by Vancouver DPAC. If you missed both, you are in luck as DPAC recorded theirs. Watch it.
Of the 19 trustee candidates, some are running as independents, some with existing political parties. Some names are familiar, some are less known. To support voters, PAN asked all of them the same 6 questions and their answers (or lack of response) are below.
Remember to VOTE! Advanced Voting is October 4 and 10 at City Hall. Voting Day is October 14th. Details at City of Vancouver
Complete set of answers
1. What skills would you bring to a trustee position and why should Vancouverites vote for you as an individual (leaving aside party affiliation)?
2. If elected, how will you promote an atmosphere of collaboration with advisor Dianne Turner, senior staff, and Board members from other political parties?
3. As an elected trustee, how would you envision the role of parent input with respect to decision making?
4. Explain your perspective on how the Board should work going forward with the provincial Ministry of Education.
5. What is your view on how the Board should work going forward with the City of Vancouver (i.e. in addressing the intertwined issues of densification and available school space)?
6. What do you see as the top three most urgent and important issues facing the Vancouver School Board, and how do you plan to address these?
On September 25, 2017 we sent the following letter to the Honourable Rob Fleming, Minister of Education, Scott MacDonald, Deputy Minister of Education and Dave Duerkson, Executive Director, Legislation, Policy & Governance Branch asking for some government actions to help attract and retain teachers. (download pdf)
The province of British Columbia currently faces an unprecedented public education staffing crisis: the overall system is short some 1000 teachers. In Vancouver alone, as of the third week of September, there are the equivalent of 53 full-time teacher positions (72 positions overall) still unfilled. Recent hiring in Vancouver have already drawn on seconded district staff, support staff, and even retired teachers, suggesting the actual number of additional teachers required for sustainable public education school operations is far greater. These positions are at the frontline of the provision of K-12 education within our public system.
Students and families are being adversely affected by this staffing crisis. Across the province there are students in classrooms who do not have a full-time teacher; students with learning challenges are losing resource time; and some special needs students are being told to stay home in the absence of supports; and parents who have to deal with the fallout of circumstances affecting their children while juggling their existing parental and employment commitments.
While understanding the exceptional circumstances of implementing the Memorandum of Agreement resulting from last year’s Supreme Court ruling, the Parent Advocacy Network (PAN) strongly urges the Ministry of Education to take further immediate action in creative short-term measures to enable the necessary recruitment of additional qualified professional teachers.
Given the near certainty that all in-province qualified applicants have already been placed, out-of-province and internationally qualified teachers must be aggressively targeted.
We ask you to consider the following one-time actions to this end:
A secure and sustainable quality public education system is essential for the future of our province and our children, and this depends on sufficient numbers of qualified teachers. It is imperative that the Ministry work quickly and diligently to recruit additional qualified, professional teachers from out of province and international pools to ensure that all open teacher positions are filled as quickly as possible.
The Parent Advocacy Network
There will be a by-election in Vancouver on October 14th to elect nine Trustees to the Vancouver Board of Education for a one year term.
There are 19 individuals who’ve put their names forward as candidates. Some are running as independents, some with existing political parties. Some names are familiar, some are less known.
The Parent Advocacy Network (PAN) believes citizens of Vancouver, especially parents of school-aged children, should cast a vote in the by-election. We also believe voters should do their due diligence and get informed about all the candidates to make an informed choice; informed about both the candidates’ platforms and experience, but also important is who they are and how they plan to effect change.
We are asking all 19 candidates these 6 questions and we will post their answers – DUE BY October 1, 2017 – (or their lack of response) on our website by October 4th to help voters make an informed choice.
Questions for Trustee Candidates
The Parent Advocacy Network steering committee is excited to see two of its long-standing members - Carrie Bercic and Erica Jaaf - take a leave of absence from PAN to run in the upcoming school trustee by-election under OneCity. Both Erica and Carrie are strong, committed public education advocates; their knowledge of the issues and the needs of children in Vancouver will be an asset to parents across the district. We thank them for stepping forward to help make a difference and to increasing political diversity within the VSB Board.
On Wednesday July 26, 2017 PAN sent the following email to The Honourable Rob Fleming, Minister of Education addressing what we feel are two of the most pressing concerns within Vancouver School District. (download pdf)
Dear Mr Fleming,
The Parent Advocacy Network (PAN) would like to extend our formal congratulations to you on your appointment as Minister of Education within the new NDP cabinet. Your long service as opposition spokesperson, your knowledge of the complexity of the issues, and your demonstrated commitment to a strong, fully-funded and equitable public education system inspires confidence in parents. You bring to this portfolio the strong, decisive leadership needed to address the problems that have accumulated over the past 16 years and restore public confidence in a government committed to providing predictable, sustainable funding to meet the learning needs of all BC children.
PAN and parents would like to draw your attention to two critical public education issues that require urgent and immediate attention:
1) Concerns arising from the implementation of the Supreme Court ruling
We are concerned that full funding be allocated to all school boards, including Vancouver, to allow districts to fully implement and comply with the restored class size and composition language as stipulated in the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the BCTF. However, as you also know, this will not address some of the unintentional consequences of the restored language, and the short timeline for implementation that have serious implications for children in Vancouver and other districts.
In Vancouver, many schools have been unable to fill vacancies in the first round of job postings with further vacancies opening up as teachers move to preferred positions in other districts. Given the current lack of TOCs (teachers on call) within the VSB, and the situation in which resource and support workers have been seconded to cover teaching staff absences, we are concerned there will not be sufficient teachers to fill the required positions. This is creating legitimate concerns that there are insufficient qualified teachers available to fill these positions for September which may result in classes without teachers. Vancouver, with its high cost of living, is in urgent need of financial assistance in providing incentives to attract qualified professional teachers from out of province to address this hiring problem.
PAN is also concerned that the implementation of the restored language does not address the needs of student populations equitably. Inner city schools are not perceiving any benefit from the restored class size, and composition language even where large numbers of designated special needs students would warrant this and space is available. In fact, these schools, are losing their additional resource supports through the Learning Improvement Fund (LIF), as funds shift from a needs-based criteria to one that is formula-driven and based on formal special needs designations. Counselors are still allocated based on school population rather than the degree of need within the student body. Furthermore, cutbacks to school psychologists over the last 16 years and the long wait times for school based psych ed. assessments, means that less affluent schools whose families cannot afford private assessments have larger numbers of students with "undesignated" behavioural issues that do not factor within the composition language.
2) VSB-Specific Concerns
PAN firmly believes that the VSB should have a publicly accountable, democratically elected school board of trustees. We are glad you have publicly indicated that you will retain Ms. Turner until an elected, fully functioning, Board of Trustees is in place. This will ensure stability and continuity within the VSB while it continues to work, in consultation with stakeholders, to restore and rebuild a full and cohesive senior management team; this includes the active search for a replacement superintendent, anticipation of the planned November departure of Acting Superintendent John Lewis and a recently hired secretary-treasurer.
Parents would prefer to see less partisanship within the Board in order to enable elected trustees to deliberate and act for the best interests of student learning, first and foremost. In the long term, this can only be achieved within the context of stable, predictable and adequate funding that will enable each school district to ensure that all children have the opportunity to access a quality education that meets their learning needs. As you are well aware, even with the additional funding as a result of the Supreme Court ruling, the VSB is anticipating a $25 million dollar shortfall over the next five years.
We hope that you and Ms. Turner will work together to address these issues as quickly as possible.
Thank you once again for your commitment to work for the provision of a quality and equitable public education system for the benefit of all children in BC.
We look forward to continued conversation with you around public education.
Parent Advocacy Network
Scott MacDonald, Deputy Minister of Education
Suzanne Hoffman, Chief Educator
Dianne Turner, Official Trustee, VSB
Gordon Swan, President, BCSTA
Hon Adrian Dix, MLA
Hon Andrew Wilkinson, MLA
Hon David Eby, MLA
Hon George Chow, MLA
Hon George Heyman, MLA
Hon Mable Elmore, MLA
Hon Melanie Mark, MLA
Hon Michael Lee, MLA
Hon Sam Sullivan, MLA
Hon Shane Simpson, MLA
Hon Spencer Chandra Herbert, MLA
The Parent Advocacy Network steering committee is pleased and proud to hear the news that one of our co-founders, Andrea Sinclair, has been elected Second Vice-President of the BC Confederation of Parent Advisory Councils.
We know that Andrea will be a stellar representative for parents and children in public education at the provincial level. BCCPAC’s voice is needed more than ever in this time of confusion over the class size and composition agreement, in addition to the ongoing need for adequate funding and urgently required seismic fixes. Andrea’s knowledge of the issues, her dedication to public education, and her good humour will be assets to BCCPAC.
We congratulate Andrea and all the new BCCPAC executives, and thank them for stepping up to ensure the best possible public education for all of BC’s children.
PAN updates and news, partner events, and other timely information relating to public school advocacy in and around Vancouver, BC.