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Teacher Newsmagazine Volume 16, Number 4, March 2004

Teachers in Vancouver 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 elected officials in British Columbia to know that there is strong support for a well-funded public education system. Through our 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 them.

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, 2004), elementary teachers in Vancouver will take part in "Schools in Action." They’ll invite the neighboring community into the schools and take the schools to the neighborhood. Teachers will share aspects of their daily teaching routines with members of the public, who will be invited to take part in, observe, and visit their community’s schools.

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

The VSB Advocacy Committee has created an Advocacy Toolkit. For example, school communities are urged to send the minister of education a "Blue Ribbon" postcard, requesting an 8% funding increase to address the true needs of Vancouver students. The testimonials on the postcards will reflect the diversity of the people writing them. Some will be in languages other than English. Other toolkit suggestions are 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 adaptable VSB Advocacy Toolkit is available through www.vesta.ca or www.vsb.bc.ca.

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

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