How can we afford to bring the Olympics to town but cannot afford textbooks, library books and soap for our children?

Westside Parent letter to the editor on inadequate education funding.

November 18, 2005

To The Editor:

On Thursday night I participated in a meeting of parents representing elementary school PACs in the constituency of Vancouver-Quilchena. We met with our MLA, Colin Hansen, and welcomed the opportunity to discuss education matters of importance to parents and students at our different schools.

Every concern raised at the meeting boiled down to inadequate funding for public education. The standard government line that education funding has never been higher fell flat because we know that education costs are even higher. Some of these costs are a direct result of unfunded legislated mandates. There is still disparity to the detriment of the system and, more importantly, to the detriment of our children.

Parents made it very clear to Mr. Hansen that we want more of our tax dollars spent on public education. He used a term – “the highest of the high” – pertaining to prioritizing seismic upgrading of schools. We asked him to relay our request to the government to make funding of public education their “highest of the high” priority.

I shared the information that our PAC, over seven years, has contributed an annual amount of $20,000 to our school. This is money spent to supplement math, library and fine arts resources and other “extras” that enrich every child’s educational experience. Our school budget last year was $29,000. Parents agreed that these are shocking figures.

It was also disgraceful to learn that one of the schools represented cannot afford enough soap for the entire school year. The custodian has watered down the soap and now staff has given up theirs for the benefit of the students.

I wonder when we, as a society, decided that we can afford to bring the Olympics to town but cannot afford textbooks, library books and soap for our children. What, indeed, is this government’s “highest of the high” priority?

Imagine my shock coming home from this meeting to the even more disgraceful news that MLAs had just voted themselves a significant raise. I guess that answers my question.

Yours truly,

Deborah Broadley