Maple Ridge parents will be carrying signs and holding a protest rally at the office of Maple Ridge-Mission MLA Marc Dalton Friday afternoon, asking the government to put more funding into education.
This arrives in the wake of the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows School Board passing a budget for 2014-15 after making cuts to eliminate a $5 million shortfall. Those cuts included 9.43 teacher positions and 14 from CUPE. As well, students who ride school buses within their own catchments will have to pay a $215 annual fee.
Local trustees appealed to parents to make their voices heard in Victoria, and now they are trying.
Stacy MacLennan, one of the organizers, saw a similar rally last Friday in Coquitlam and wanted to express her own frustration. She said the government has tuned out teachers, so parents need to become education advocates.
“Teachers aren’t being heard, so parents need to stand up and be heard.”
She has two children at Glenwood elementary in Maple Ridge and has already written MLAs, Victoria and letters to the editor, asking the government to be fair with teachers.
“The 10-year term the government is asking for [in its bargaining with the B.C. Teachers’ Federation] is unreasonable, especially when the government is only elected to a four-year term.
“As a collective group, we can ask government to restore funding for education.”
Dalton may not be at his Maple Ridge office, as he’s scheduled to be in Mission, but said there are plans for a rally at that office, too.
“I’m not hiding.”
Dalton said the government puts 75 per cent of provincial revenues into two portfolios – health and education.
“It’s tight. It’s a balancing act,” he said. “We made a commitment to have a balanced budget, to live within our means – that’s something we ran on.”
He noted that enrolment has been in decline in Maple Ridge, so funding from Victoria drops.
“Funding is based per-pupil, so there’s a direct correlation.”
He said education funding will increase as the economy grows
Those in the rally are not necessarily political opponents of Dalton.
“This has nothing to do with politics. It’s parents who are concerned about the lack of public funding in education,” said Scott Susin, another organizer. “It’s pretty dire straights right now.”
Susin graduated from Garibaldi secondary in 1995 and is now a Mission teacher and parent of a one-year-old. He was approached by MacLennan to help promote the rally in social media.
“It has kind of taken off,” he said. “I’m hoping it will continue to build.
“We want to really send a message, that enough is enough.”
He will come armed with statistics and facts demonstrating how “bare bones” public education is becoming.
“It’s even worse than people think.”
One of the main speakers will be Coquitlam-Maillardville MLA Selina Robinson. However, Susin believes parents should be the stars of the show.
“Parents can be way more influential and effective.”
Maple Ridge Teachers’ Association president George Serra said he hopes the school board trustees will show up and support the parent initiative.
“I hope we make it a Friday tradition,” he said of the rally.
Local CUPE president Leslie Franklin was also thankful for the support by parents.
“I don’t think this government is listening to anybody, but if anybody has got power, it’s the voters.”
• The rally will be at 3:30 p.m. at the office at No. 102-23015 Dewdney Trunk Rd.