Parents rally in Port Moody for more school funding for SD43

Parents gather for a rally in support of education in front of Port Moody-Coquitlam MLA Linda Reimer
Parents gather for a rally in support of education in front of Port Moody-Coquitlam MLA Linda Reimer's office Friday.

With placards in hand, dozens of parents, teachers and even a few School District 43 trustees turned out to rally for more education funding in Port Moody Friday.

The event, organized by an ad-hoc group of parents called Parents4BC, drew more than 100 adults and children to a plaza in front of Port Moody-Coquitlam MLA Linda Reimer's office in Suter Brook Village.

Lisa Cable, who was one of the rally’s planners, said the goal of the event was not to point fingers but to let the province know that parents aren't happy with cuts to schools in SD43. She urged parents to write letters to MLAs and write their stories so they can be taken in a box and shown to government officials as a way of demonstrating the need, especially for students hardest hit by the cuts.

"How can we have a dialogue to make sure we are here for our children, that's our message today," Cable said.

Both Reimer, a BC Liberal, and Coquitlam-Maillardville MLA Selina Robinson of the NDP addressed the crowd, but with polar opposite points of view.

Reimer said she would take the parents' message to the Ministry of Education but also said that funding has increased over the last 13 or 14 years. She also noted that SD43 is one of only three districts in the province that has had repeated deficits and said the government would lose its valuable triple A credit rating if it overspent and failed to produce a balanced budget.

Reimer pointed out as well that the district will get increased funding next year for special needs, called the Learning Improvement Fund, totaling $3.9 million, and said she would advocate for parents' needs.

"I will speak with the minister to fill him in on your concerns," Reimer told parents.

The rally followed Tuesday's approval by the School District 43 board of education of a budget for the next school year that includes 150 FTE job cuts to teachers, education assistants, custodians, principals and other positions.

Robinson told the crowd that the problem is chronic underfunding by the BC Liberal government and is being experienced by school districts across B.C.

Some of her concerns were echoed by the outgoing president of the District Parent Advisory Council. Heidi Gable said SD43 has done the best it could with funding but can't meet increasing expenses with existing operating grants. She noted as well that school parent advisory councils are having to fundraise for things that aren't frills, pointing out the job cuts will include teachers, psychologists and speech and language pathologists.

"This isn't fluff and PACs can't fundraise for more psychologists," Gable said.

Coquitlam Teachers' Association president Charley King attended the rally and said it was great to see concerned parents show up to express their concerns. "It's very unusual and it shows parents care about public schools," King said.

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