Wanted: education stories Parents4BC aim to present concerns to province

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MAY 23, 2014 12:00 AM

As teachers in the Tri-Cities hit the bricks Wednesday, questions from concerned parents could hit the floor of the Legislature.

The exchange would take place during a week when teachers ramp up bargaining frustrations with rotating strikes across the province – and the government launches a “lock out” of teachers from all but classroom duties, a move that could leave graduates’ provincial exams unmarked, report cards unwritten, graduation ceremonies disrupted and students without teachers’ extra help during their final month of class.

Parents for BC, a Coquitlambased group founded this spring to push back against what it calls underfunding of provincial schools, is collecting material from parents about how classroom shortfalls are affecting their kids. The effort began after School District 43 began proposing cuts to deal with an expected $13.4-million operating shortfall. Fallout from the chaos surrounding the bargaining has since accentuated parental unease.

“We’re looking for stories from parents, but educators are welcome too – anybody and everybody who has a stake in the education system,” says Lisa Cable, a local parent who founded the province-wide group. “We just want to give them a place where they can share their thoughts, and then do our best to get those thoughts put in front of the government.”

The group staged a rally earlier this month to protest funding cuts and teacher layoffs. Now it wants to lay the public’s broader concerns about the school system in front of the government – in all their personal, detailed glory.

Material is being collected through the group’s new website at www.parentsforbc. com and on Facebook. Stories received by Tuesday will be stripped of identifying names and information about those who submitted them, printed and presented to B.C. Liberal government representatives in Victoria next week, Cable said Wednesday.

The group hopes they will also form the basis of questions posed by Opposition NDP MLAs during question period on May 28, she said.

Coquitlam-Maillardville MLA Selina Robinson said Thursday that while question period is always “a work in progress,” it “would be interesting to hear a response from the minister to the concerns of parents.”

Robinson confirmed the group has been invited to sit as guests in the gallery of the Legislature.

B.C. teachers launched a “first stage” job action this spring after about a year of bargaining by withdrawing from extracurricular activities. They will ramp up the pressure with one-day rotating strikes across B.C. next week, and have said the strikes may continue if bargaining is not fruitful.

The government responded to the initial job action by threatening to dock wages by five per cent, and to move to 10-per-cent wage reductions if the strikes take place. It has also said the partial lockout will begin Monday, and apply before and after school hours and during lunch hours.

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