Cowichan Valley candidates: Education crucial to B.C.’s future

Provincial candidates feel more can be done to guide students to educational success.

Get to know your Cowichan Valley provincial election candidates in this weekly series.

The only thing holding the education system together “is the amazing teachers we have in B.C., who are caring enough to continue to pour their hearts and souls into the underfunded and overcrowded classrooms year after year,” says Libertarian candidate James Anderson.

He blames a backward decision-making process “that flows in the wrong direction, from the top down,” in which “almost half the funds allocated for education never make it past government administrators who are far removed from classrooms and students.”

The government should step back and let parents and teachers decide how future generations are educated, he said.

As for universities, “funding should be conditional on respecting the right for free speech on campuses,” he said. “The right to openly disagree with the status quo and have civil discussions on controversial issues is crucial is a free society.”

A former high school teacher and a parent, Green Party candidate Sonia Furstenau feels strongly about the value of education.

“I have seen firsthand the impacts that cuts to education have had on classrooms,” she said citing the increasing number of students in each class and decreasing resources and support.

“Teachers have had to work harder to make do with less,” she said, adding their respected input and the empowerment of school boards are essential.

“I have seen firsthand how students can thrive in a positive, caring classroom. We need to support and value teachers, who are the true experts when it comes to education, and we need to recognize that better classroom conditions benefit everyone.”

BC Greens are committed to affordable childcare and early learning programs, high quality public education, and accessible post-secondary education, including trades education.

NDP candidate Lori Iannidinardo said her four children attended local public schools and she championed education as a PAC president and was instrumental in the building of Frances Kelsey Secondary School.

“Wherever I go people are concerned about the impact of 16 years of the Liberals closing schools, delaying seismic upgrades and denying kids the support they need,” she said. “An entire generation of kids have grown up in crowded, underfunded schools with teachers who don’t get the support they need to help students.”

Iannidinardo said an NDP government would advocate for parents and students, making sure kids and teachers have enough resources.

“This election is about replacing Christy Clark with a government that is working for our kids, focused on improving their education. I am the candidate that can ensure the Liberals are defeated and that you have a government that works for you,” she said.

Students need to be well prepared for the future. That’s why the BC Liberals have committed a record $5.9-billion to education for the 2017/18 school year,” said Liberal candidate Steve Housser. “That’s 40 per cent more than in 2000/01 despite a 55,000 enrolment decline in the same period. Our 2017 budget provides $320-million over three years to fund final agreement on class size and composition.”

Housser said 40 per cent of all K-12 classes have fewer than 24 students and 58 per cent have between 24 and 30.

“This is comparable if not superior to all other provinces. Our outcomes are excellent,” he said, adding B.C.’s Grade 10 students ranked first in the world for reading, second in science, and sixth in math.

He also noted the government has negotiated “an affordable agreement and five years of labour peace” with the BCTF.

Independent socialist candidate Eden Haythornthwaite says Christy Clark may be right when she says B.C. has one of the finest education systems in the world, “but it’s not because of the government. It’s because of the heroic care and diligence that the teachers and education assistants and everyone else provides despite the fact that they had terrible barriers.”

Haythornthwaite said for 15 years the government conducted warfare on the teachers’ union in the courts “just to not do what they were actually mandated to do with our taxes, which is provide our kids with a good education.

“We had a whole cohort of children who went through the public school systems of British Columbia, from Kindergarten right out the door, without the proper supports.” said the former school trustee.

Haythornthwaite is opposed to funding private schools with public money.

Independent candidate Ian Morrison said political parties will point fingers at each other and spin the story to their advantage when it comes to education.

“The Supreme Court of Canada said the province was wrong and the teaches were right. Families are asking ‘What has been lost?’ and ‘Can we pick up the pieces and move forward? What’s happened to shop class, home economics, woodworking and metal shop? Can students take choir or band anymore?’”

He wants those practical programs back in school and to return the job of training and certifying skilled trades to unions, “who are far more successful than government, at graduating skilled, ticketed workers.”

Morrison noted debt has become a huge problem for college and university students.

“I will work hard to make post secondary education more affordable for our kids and grandkids who want to pursue higher education,” he said.

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