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As teachers’ strikes continue, B.C. parents share education concerns

On Wednesday, a small group of concerned B.C. parents met with Education Minister Peter Fassbender in Victoria in an attempt to change the tone of the labour dispute between the province and its teachers. By the end of the day, the B.C. Teachers' Federation had announced a new round of rotating strikes will take place next week.

Teacher Mike Cavaletto talks with students from the MYVoice outreach choir program at Sir Charles Tupper Secondary School in Vancouver in December 2011. (Ben Nelms for The Globe and Mail)

On services for students

Ramona Chu, a Coquitlam mom of three, has been a parent volunteer in the school system for 17 years. Two of her children have already graduated. She blames both sides for the deadlock at the bargaining table.

“My kids have had access to services that are being cut and won’t be there for others,” she said. She called on the government to show leadership, and to find ways to save money without reducing services like speech pathology, music and libraries.

“It’s a fight between the government and the BCTF, and they have both lost sight of the kids.”

Children at the Strathcona Community Centre take part in an after-school program in Vancouver in 2011. The community centre struggles to keep up with demands and costs of the extended March break in a neighbourhood where many families are below poverty line. (John Lehmann/The Globe and Mail)

On disadvantaged students

Stacey MacLennan from Maple Ridge has two kids in school, in kindergarten and in Grade 3.

She is worried that B.C. is failing students, particularly kids living in poverty. “B.C. has the highest child poverty rate in Canada. Education is the great equalizer, but the divide is getting bigger.”

She is worried that the government’s lockout provisions won’t keep kids safe in school.

Lisa Cable, founder of Parents for B.C., speaks to media as a small group of parents protest the ongoing labour dispute between teachers and the government outside the legislature in Victoria on May 28, 2014. (Chad Hipolito for The Globe and Mail)

On putting kids first

Lisa Cable, the organizer of Parents for B.C., said she was originally motivated to become active because she was frustrated by what she was seeing in the schools. In her School District 43, she sees teachers struggling to meet the needs of kids of all abilities.

When she invited other parents to write about their issues, she gathered 200 stories on her Parents for B.C. website. “I have read them all … I was a frustrated parent but after reading this [collection], I’m pretty angry.” The stories vary, she said, but the common theme is that kids have been forgotten in the labour dispute.

“We are not protesting any group. We are here for our children. We need government, teachers and everyone involved in the system to step for a moment – let’s all take responsibility.”

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