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Teacher Newsmagazine Volume 17, Number 4, January/February 2005

Vancouver teachers advocate for public education

by Verena Foxx

"In your own province, at this very moment, the most basic principles of inclusive, universal, fully funded public education are being challenged." – John Ralston Saul, addressing SFU graduates.

It is becoming increasingly important for the minister of education and the publicly elected officials in British Columbia to know that there is strong support for a well-funded education system. Through advocacy and demonstrated success, the public education system can be preserved and improved. All individuals deserve to have access to the resources and opportunities that public education affords.

Vancouver teachers have become hands-on advocates of restoring adequate funding to public education, and also celebrating its success. In the month surrounding Education Week (March 1–5), elementary teachers in Vancouver will take part in Schools in Action. We will invite the neighbouring community into the schools and take the schools to the neighbourhood. Teachers in schools will share aspects of daily teaching routines with members of the public, who take part in, observe, and visit their community’s schools.

Vancouver elementary teachers are represented at a district-wide advocacy committee, which includes representatives from all Vancouver School Board employee groups, elected trustees, and students.

The VSB Advocacy Committee has created an Advocacy Toolkit, implemented in various ways at different schools. For example, members of the school communities may fill out and send the minister of education a "Blue Ribbon" postcard, requesting an 8% funding increase to address the true needs of Vancouver students. Testimonials on the postcards reflect the diversity of the people writing them. Some are written in languages other than English. Toolkit suggestions include writing letters to the editor about issues that students are facing in schools today, discussing what adequate funding could mean for different programs, meeting with local MLAs to outline the ongoing impact of cumulative cutbacks, and contacting the school liaison trustee to speak at parent meetings.

The VSB Advocacy Toolkit, which can be adapted to other district needs, is available on the VSB web site: vsb.bc.ca.

Verena Foxx is the communications officer for the Vancouver Elementary School Teachers’ Association.

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