The Times-Colonist editorial of July 10/16 was headlined “Get the politics out of education”. [Understanding the point, that vote getting expedience should not be the basis for education-related decisions made in the typical BC lib process consisting of announce ,then think, if anyone notices and there is an uproar.] On the contrary, we need more politics in education. Political decisions have led to a desperate underfunding situation in public education in BC today which has been building since 2001, while at the same time public money subsidies and tax breaks to private schools have increased.
Political ideology drives funding or lack of funding for public goods like education, health care and “income assistance” aka welfare. All public goods are struggling in BC, as political decisions direct where money goes, for example a $100 million “Prosperity Fund” based on non-existent LNG revenue, and a $9 billion expenditure for the Site C dam, an unneeded, environmentally destructive, widely opposed project, for which you and I will pay until 2086. Meanwhile, parents fundraise for years for a school playground. [Wouldn’t you think a playground would be a Ministry of Education-funded essential item for elementary schools in BC? Nope.]
At the community level the call for “politics out of education” results in candidates for election to School Boards at all candidates meetings making empty platform statements like “It’s all about the kids”, “My kids / grandkids went to public schools”, “My relative was influential in plant genetics”, and “I will have to hear what the community thinks”. Do you know what kind of advocacy and principles you are voting for when pre-election discourse is reduced to “no politics”? Do the candidates have any ideas at all? Do you know why they are running for a Trustee position? [Trustees in SD61 are paid around $1300 a month, 12 months a year, with automatic raises. See D.2 a) here ]
We need clear statements of conviction from School Trustee candidates, and stated expectations of what candidates expect from provincial politicians in regard to support and funding for public goods, specifically for public education.
Let’s stop trying to make School Boards into a kindergarten-style Teddy Bears’ Picnic politics-free zone. They are made up of adults with differing views, resulting in occasionally heated debate, which is healthy and representative in a democracy. But voters need to know what those views are. In a little more than a year, on October 20, 2018, voters will have a chance to make sure we get the politics front and centre in education.
Published in the Victoria Times-Colonist, June 19, 2016.