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Parents break out of apathetic attitudes to challenge educational institutions

Parents across the Boundary region are getting together to become a regular voice that the Board of Trustees of School District 51 will be hearing every month. In light of the actions of school boards across the province, and with the potential school closures on the agenda for next week’s board meeting in the Boundary, this voice is going to be a critical part of the future of the region’s schools.

Although the initial crisis that triggered the group to form was the cancellation of a part of a bus route serving the Mt. Baldy area, parents have seen that the real problem lies in accountability for the elected board to their constituents, and in the reactive stance that uninformed parents are forced into once decisions are made at the board level. The Boundary Educational Alliance is hoping to become a force to contend with over the coming years, being a regular part of school board meetings, providing an information source for parents, and voicing questions and opinions on a regular basis.

This is timely in light of the problems facing school districts across the province. Tyee blogger and editor, Crawford Kilian, highlighted some of the recent widespread announcements for school closures and teacher layoffs in other regions. “On January 19, School District 57 in Prince George published a District Sustainability Committee Report. It describes the financial problems the district faces, including the harmonized sales tax, medical services plan and teachers' pension premium increases, and other growing expenses. All told, the report said, $7 million would have to be cut from the 2010-11 budget. Also on January 19, the Vancouver School Board sent letters to 800 teachers, advising them of possible layoffs. North Vancouver's School District 44, meanwhile, announced it is moving to "open consultation around potential school and program restructuring, consolidation and closures."”

Our neighbouring district 20 has also entered into the school closure arena in the last month, and now we’re at the same table. And all this is based on the expectation that the new provincial budget will not fund the increased costs to school districts and, faced with declining enrollment, districts need to start cutting.

It would be easy for parents in Grand Forks and Christina Lake to be complacent and not get involved at this round of cuts as they seem to be aimed at the West Boundary elementary schools, but it is critical that everyone step up – as Mark Danyluk pointed out at a meeting this week, once the West Boundary is cut back the next place to look is the east.

The B.C. Teacher’s Federation has pointed out that the province doesn’t seem to be acknowledging the crisis that they have placed schools and overall education in. “The government’s latest Speech from the Throne shows the B.C. Liberals are still in denial about the funding crisis hitting schools and classrooms across the province, said B.C. Teachers’ Federation First Vice-President Susan Lambert. In a recent report to education partners, the B.C. Association of School Business Officials, which speaks for school district secretary treasurers, said the K-12 system needs an extra $300 million in the coming school year just to maintain current levels of service.”

Canadians are famous for our apathy, but this is the time for parents who are concerned about their children’s future to step up and get involved. With your support perhaps the board of trustees can put the needed pressure on the province to secure the future of our schools. Your child only has one chance to get the best education possible and only the constituents – parents - can affect the change needed to protect their future.