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“I am a Canadian, free to speak without fear, free to worship in my own way, free to stand for what I think right, free to oppose what I believe wrong, or free to choose those who shall govern my country. This heritage of freedom I pledge to uphold for myself and all mankind.” ~~ John G. Diefenbaker

ADAM OLSEN -- At the heart of our vision is the understanding that a quality public education system lifts the entire society

Last week I wrote about the day my son came to work with me. He is in grade 7 at Bayside Middle School and has spent a lot of time over the past two weeks sitting on the sidelines waiting for resolution to the labour dispute in the Saanich schools.

I hear with crystal clarity how the disruption is deeply impacting families in my riding. Families of students, families of teachers and families of support staff.

I have also heard the stories of the exasperated parents called to pick up their children because of the shortage of educational assistants, the school cannot get help to our children who need it. And the exhausting stories of the teachers and administrators who cannot conjure solutions to staffing shortage any longer. The consistent message I hear is that everyday in our district, teachers and administrators are triaging crisis.

I guess I could choose to brush all of this aside, we are in the middle of contract negotiations so of course the “system is broken.” Some might even say the education system is perpetually complaining about this, and no matter how much money we spend, it’ll never be enough.

Except I can’t brush it aside.

The people that make up the system, are my friends, my family, my peers, my neighbours. They are my educators and trusted advisors. Their respected opinions have long influenced me. They are the people that I just met who speak to me with sincerity, people with their focus far away from the negotiating table and solely on the health, well being and future of our children and grand-children.

Chronically under-funding public education

What the picket lines in front of Saanich schools represent, and the gridlocked negotiations, is a system in chaos due to chronic under funding.

It begs the question of the provincial government: what is the vision for education? Is it to just barely maintain the status quo that everyone has been so critical of for the past decade and a half? Is government prepared to make the investments in public education that the system so desperately needs, or are they just going to shuffle the pieces around a little?

In the last provincial election, I was proud of the BC Greens education platform. I don’t think anyone believed that education was a priority for the “single-issue environmental party.” We committed to investing billions of dollars of new funding over and above the court rulings to support our children and educators.

At the heart of our vision is the understanding that a quality public education system lifts the entire society.

It is more than the long-term investment that folks believe it to be. It’s a short- and medium-term investment as well. This is exactly the point that I hear repeated every day as I’m connecting with educators. The under-funded system that our provincial government is trying to band-aid and duct tape through this round of bargaining is having a negative drain on our society.

We have heard the same rhetoric from both the BC Liberals and BC NDP. They both consistently trumpet that our economy is strong, indeed the strongest in the whole country. So, when is it time to invest in public education if it is not when our economy is strong?

Resetting priorities
Education should support people, the system should provide a safe place to nurture inspired creativity, and a space for thriving innovation.

Public education needs to be a much higher priority than bad public policy costing us billions - like bridge-toll politics in swing ridings, and fossil fuel subsidies in the midst of a climate crisis.

Families cannot afford the disruption and our children deserve a high-quality public education. It's not happening in Saanich as our schools are locked behind picket lines.

The system is in crisis but it is not broken.

It's held up by visionary educators working side by side with support staff who sacrifice daily to make sure that our young people have every chance to carve out a beautiful future. How long can we expect our educators to continue when their government doesn't appear to value their work?

While our children are rallying to demand their leaders take climate action seriously, it's time their leaders show them much we believe in them. It's time we show them what we are prepared to do to make sure that we give them every chance of success.

It’s time to elevate the education of our children, and in a broader sense embrace comprehensive and socially integrated approaches to life-long learning, to ensure the resources are available to people when they need it to improve and upgrade their knowledge and skills training.

An investment today, improves the outcomes today.

Adam Olsen ... is a Green Party Member of the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia for Saanich North and the Islands. Born in Victoria, BC in 1976, Adam has lived, worked and played his entire life on the Saanich Peninsula. He is a member of Tsartlip First Nation (W̱JOȽEȽP), where he and his wife, Emily, are raising their two children, Silas and Ella.


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