Do you remember voting in the last local elections in November 2014? What I remember most from that time is recovering from a drawn out, demoralizing fight with Christy Clark’s government throughout that spring and summer. I remember weeks of eating my lunch while sitting on the sidewalk outside our school when we were locked out of our classrooms, separated from our students, and docked 10% of our salary daily.
Do you remember the Surrey School Board of Trustees calling upon the government to bargain fairly and ensure enough funding to address the needs in our schools?
The trustees who comprised the school board during our job action had been elected in 2011, when only 23% of eligible voters in Surrey turned out. They were elected with the support of between 6% – 13% of eligible voters.
In other words, the choices of an average of about 9% of voters in Surrey impacted 100% of the more than five thousand teachers and 67,000 students (at the time) in the school district over a period of three years.
There is another election in less than two weeks.
Whoever is elected as a school trustee on October 20 is going to have the power to determine the qualities and characteristics of the learning conditions of nearly 72,000 students in Surrey for the next four years.
That’s a lot of impact to have on the day-to-day experiences of children in our schools.
Teachers will also be affected by the election results. The working conditions of nearly 6,000 Surrey teachers will also be shaped by the choices voters make. The provincial government has restored the elected board of BCPSEA, the BC Public School Employers’ Association. The government has thus far insisted that BCPSEA will not begin new contract negotiations with the BCTF until after school trustees have been elected and have had a chance to get up to speed on the issues.
Trustees, through BCPSEA, will be able to influence the language of our new collective agreement.
That means that we are essentially voting to elect our bosses for the next four years.
What kinds of bosses would YOU like to have?
Wouldn’t you like to have bosses who are willing to take political risks and push the province and city to make significant investments in schools and staffing for Surrey kids, and stop development from outstripping the capacity of our schools?
We have heard loud and clear from you that the situation in many schools is dire, particularly with the reduction in LST staffing. Imagine having bosses who consistently and publicly advocated for proper supports for all students, whether they have special needs or just need extra help? Bosses who, instead of just quietly providing the bare minimum BCPSEA tells them they legally must do, would call upon the government to increase funding so they can provide students what is truly needed?
It would be such a welcome change if we had bosses who would acknowledge that schools are struggling to meet the needs of students with what is provided.
If you teach in Surrey but live elsewhere in the Lower Mainland, your vote is very important in your community. If you are a Surrey voter, the need for change on the school board is urgent. Four more years of the same is simply not good enough for our students, or for us.
With historically low numbers of voters turning out in local municipal elections, winners are often determined by only a few dozen votes. It truly matters who shows up at the polls.
Every day teachers work to make a difference in the lives of the students in their classrooms.
Voting this October is an extension of that work and, with the right bosses in charge, will ensure that the students we teach don’t go through another year of not having enough of what they need to succeed.
Early voting dates in Surrey are October 6, 10, 11, 13 and election day is October 20.