With the release today of the 2010 Child Poverty Report Card, the BC Teachers’ Federation adds its voice to the chorus of parents, health professionals, and community organizations demanding that our provincial government take urgent action to end child poverty.
“BC is one of the wealthiest provinces in Canada, yet it is one of the least willing to act on child poverty,” said Jim Iker, first vice-president of the BCTF.
In the past decade, BC teachers have seen cuts to school breakfast and lunch programs, even as more students are coming to class hungry. They’ve seen the closure of before- and after-school programs, even as more parents are working longer and harder than ever to make ends meet.
“Child poverty is one of the most harmful, yet most easily preventable barriers to learning. As teachers, we know how difficult it is for children growing up in poverty to learn,” said Iker. “BC needs a comprehensive poverty reduction strategy which targets all ministries, including the Ministry of Education.”
Iker noted that six provinces in Canada already have poverty reduction strategies with specific targets and timelines. For its part, the BCTF has been tackling this issue in the following ways:
Classroom support: The BCTF anti-poverty action group has developed teaching resources including lesson plans, videos, online resources, and a professional development workshop.
Research: BCTF researchers are working with classroom teachers in Vancouver, Port Alberni, Penticton, and Surrey to investigate child poverty in schools and share knowledge about its impacts on students’ social, emotional, physical, and academic success.
Conferences: In the last two years, the BCTF held conferences in Kelowna and Prince George, bringing together parents, students, educators, and community organizers to respond to child poverty.
School projects: The BCTF funds school-based social justice projects such as community gardens where students learn how to grow food and donate it to local food banks.
Advocacy: The BCTF works with First Call, the Poverty Reduction Coalition, and others in lobbying for solutions including:
- providing adequate funding for breakfast and lunch programs in schools
- creating more spaces in before- and after-school programs
- raising welfare rates
- creating affordable housing
- ending government-sanctioned child labour laws for 12- to 14-year olds
- raising the minimum wage to $10 per hour
- encouraging employers to pay their employees a living wage.
“Despite all our efforts, community coalitions cannot do this alone,” Iker said. “We urgently need government of whatever political party to commit to working with us to end child poverty. Children and families simply can’t afford to wait any longer.”