Parents share another title

Dear Christy Clark, Education Minister Peter Fassbender and Shuswap MLA Greg Kyllo.

Dear Christy Clark, Education Minister Peter Fassbender and Shuswap MLA Greg Kyllo.

You’ve maybe heard or seen or had one of your communications people refer to something I’ve written in the past – maybe about improvements to the Trans-Canada Highway or wait times for surgeries or the health of Shuswap Lake.

But in addition to my role in newspapers, I also have another job.

I’m a mom. And when it comes to the well-being of my children, that job becomes my number one priority.

So I write to you and my readers as a mom who is terribly worried about her children and their future due to the funding policies your government has put in place.

In our school district, we are facing a $1.8 million shortfall, on the heels of a similar cutback last year and cuts in the years before that. While I can agree that some administrative efficiencies might be able to be realized through shared services or other methods, the underfunding of the system, as well as the current per-student funding model, have led to a situation in this district where critical student services are being cut drastically or eliminated altogether.

While you may trumpet your system, B.C. students are funded less per student than in other places in Canada. The government itself estimates the 2013/14 per-pupil funding average to be $8,654. Alberta, which also calculates per-pupil funding this way, averaged $10,111 for the 2013/14 school year, while Ontario averaged $11,266.

Last year, the children of this district lost library time, a specialized teacher for sex education was slashed, counsellors and speech language services were reduced. This year, in order to meet the budget expectations of your government, the board is proposing further cuts including the elimination of the gifted education program, severe reductions to counselling and mental health programs for students, cuts to supports for speech, deaf and hard-of-hearing students and programs to help struggling readers.

As the parent of children who access some of these services, I can vouch for how critical these programs are. I also notice how some of these services should not be funded through the Ministry of Education, but should receive dedicated funding support through other ministries. Mental health services for students, for example, should be a given and should be funded through the Ministry of Health and the Ministry for Children and Families.

Speech and supports for deaf or hard-of-hearing are also health issues. At the very least, funds should be transferred to the Ministry of Education to support the health needs of those students.

I have already appealed to my school board to do what it can to retain the services that have a direct impact on student learning, but the root of this problem goes beyond local school boards.

It lies with you.

I may be just one angry parent. But I think there are others like me out there. We also all share another title – voter.