This is a guest post by a mom and public school teacher in BC. She chooses to remain anonymous to protect the identity of her son.
Dear Mr. Fassbender,
I am a teacher at an elementary school in your riding, Surrey Fleetwood. At my school, committed teachers work together with curious students to make learning engaging every day. I love my job. However, students in my school and in schools across this province are hurting because of your government’s unwillingness to make education a financial priority. I could tell you many stories about how students in my school have been short-changed by the cuts to education initially made by your Premier, Christy Clark, when she held your position as Minister of Education from 2001-2004.
Instead though, I want to tell you about how these cuts have personally affected my family and me. In 2003, the year after class composition guidelines were scrapped, my husband and I received confirmation through a psycho-educational assessment (which we paid to have done privately since we were unwilling to wait for up to a year or more for the testing to be done at our local elementary school) that one of our children had a learning disability.
The teachers at the school showed immediate concern and met with us to discuss the IEP (Individual Education Plan). During that meeting we asked a key question: “How much learning assistance will our child receive?” Regretfully, the teachers informed us that the time would amount to about 45 minutes a week and that it would never be one-on-one time with a Learning Assistance Teacher. All learning assistance would take place in a group setting because there was simply not enough time available.
Your premier’s elimination of class composition guidelines and the resulting cuts to specialist teachers were already having a devastating effect on public education.
Mr. Fassbender, what would you do if this was your child or grandchild?
Perhaps you would do the same thing we decided to do. With heavy hearts we pulled our child out of the public school system and enrolled in the Kenneth Gordon School, a private school for children with learning disabilities. I remember speaking to the principal at the public school our child attended, explaining how much we regretted this decision but how we felt we had no other options.
The principal was quick to say, “I’d do the same thing if I were you.” I know he wished he could have done more for us.
Our child is graduating from high school this year. We are thankful that, with the help of family, we were able to invest the $64,000 needed for a private school education but we shouldn’t have had to pay for this in the first place. Our child, and all children in British Columbia’s public schools, deserve to have their learning needs met.
Short-changing special needs students is just one of this government’s “dirty little secrets” when it comes to education. Ask any teacher how often they have to tell parents that their child will not receive the learning assistance, or counseling time, or the help of a speech and language pathologist that they desperately need. Ask any teacher how long they have to wait for important psycho-educational testing to be completed so that they can better meet their student’s unique learning needs.
Your government’s cuts have hurt my family and they have hurt the students I work with.
Please do the right thing. Make educational spending a priority for your government. Do it now. The kids in this province have waited long enough.
Surrey Teacher and concerned parent