This is a guest post from Jeni Lee, Public School Teacher. This post has been published in a local newspaper but it is the first time it has appeared on a site like this one. Please share it far and wide to get the word out.
An Open Letter to Christy Clark
I’m a public school teacher and I have a dirty little secret: you and I are not so different.
See, we are both single parents, we both live in BC, and we both send our sons to private school. That’s right, my child goes to private school. And I know that we both send our kids to private school because we want them to have every opportunity available to succeed in the future.
Now I don’t know much about your son, but I know mine is a bright, articulate, and polite young man. Perhaps yours is too. I do know there is one difference between your son and mine; my son has autism.
My son needs extra support in the classroom and we both know the public system pretty well, don’t we, Christy?
We know that when I tried to register my son at the local public school four years ago, my son was not able to get support on his first day of kindergarten because the system couldn’t provide it. There was no money. We know that the funding he receives to support his extra needs was going to be spread around the entire district, not just spent on him, because the school district is underfunded. We know that there were going to be other children in his crowded public school classroom who needed help from his resource teacher, his educational assistant, and his classroom teacher, and he would not get the attention he requires.
We know that he would not likely receive regular occupational therapy, speech therapy, or psycho-educational testing because those positions are under filled, overworked, and in constant demand.
Christy, we know that every person in the public education system would have tried their hardest to support my son with the resources provided to them by your government. These are dedicated, hard-working, resourceful people, and I am proud to say that I work with them. But the resources just aren’t there. And like you, Christy, I decided this wasn’t good enough for my son.
You know my salary, Christy, as does the rest of the province, so you know that I’ve had to make some choices to send my son to private school. I’ve never been to Mexico, Hawaii, or Las Vegas. My vacations are spent at home, in a tent, or visiting my parents. I don’t own a new car, quad, boat, sled or even a big-screen TV. Actually, I don’t even own a house. But you’ve talked about the sacrifices you’ve made to send your child to private school too.
So Christy, we aren’t so different, you and I. We both want what’s best for our children and we know the public education system in its current state can’t provide it. It’s not that the people in the system aren’t good enough, it’s that the system has been severely underfunded for far too long.
So I’m letting you in on my dirty little secret, but I think we both know that given the condition of the public educational system, it is not going to remain a secret for much longer.
Jeni Lee is a parent to a son with autism and has been a public school teacher for five years. She spent the better part of a year preparing her son for kindergarten because she knew there would be challenges for him. There was never any doubt in her mind that the public education system would offer him the resources he needed but she had no idea how badly funding had been cut from the system.
This letter reflects the reality of our public schools today. All children in BC deserve a high quality education. Education allows people to make choices and makes us strong as a society. No family should feel like they need to pay for private school to get the education their children deserve.