An all-candidates education forum held Wednesday night saw a small crowd gather to hear what those rivaling to represent this riding would do for education in Nelson-Creston.
Hosted by school board trustees and moderated by superintendent Jeff Jones at the Johnstone Road boardroom, the forum saw about 30 people attend with a handful viewing via live-conference from Creston.
On behalf of the trustees, board vice chair Lenora Trenaman welcomed all in attendance thanking them for coming to hear what candidates had to say on matters of education.
“We are all very passionate about education and while sometimes we bark about it,” she said, “we rarely bite.”
People representing principals, parents, teachers, unionized workers and students gave questions to NPD Michelle Mungall, Liberal’s Greg Garbula and Sjeng Derkx representing the Green party.
Both Derkx and Mungall were critical of the Liberal’s BC Education Plan calling it vague using nice words but lacking substance.
Mungall pointed to Liberal cuts gutting education in the province promising her government has found revenue earmarked for the classroom.
“We have taken education for granted for 12 years. It’s time to change that. It’s time to reinvest in our K to 12 system and what the NDP is proposing is $100 million into classrooms,” she said.
With these funds targeted, Mungall says additional money will go toward more teacher assistants and librarians, for example.
“Once you support the teachers, you support the student,” she said.
Garbula acknowledged that his party wants to “do better for our kids,” he said.
“I know it’s been challenging for the last number of years. We’ve come through a very difficult time. I think that difficult time will allow us to flourish in the years to come. As we improve our economic situation … our ability to do better will be greatly improved,” he said. “I don’t have $100 million to give you. We have a budget. We have a plan.”
Derkx challenged the other parties who’ve had their turn governing in BC.
“There is no infinite pot of money,” he said.
Derkx outlined his party’s philosophy that includes curriculum development to include things like more physical fitness in schools, community integration so schools make use of existing services in the communities as well as financial restructuring. As this is pursued, he sees the province taking less of a role in the local scene.
“We believe more decision making needs to be shifted from the province to the board level to the school,” he said.
People asking questions of politicians were concerned about supporting special needs students, teacher-student ratios and the role of provincial bargaining agencies like the BC Public School Employers’ Association and the BC Teachers Federation.
Derkx said having provincial standards for contract negotiations is beneficial but the “cookie cutter model” doesn’t always work. Negotiations need to be brought to the individual school boards.
Candidates were also asked about the future of Trafalgar middle school, in desperate need of replacement.
“I’d love to work with you on that,” said Mungall, to make it a “top priority.”
Garbula said he worked in Crawford Bay when their school needed replacement and he’s willing to fight with this community to make the same happen.
“I know we can make it happen in the next year or two,” he said.
Those wishing to watch the forum can view it on YouTube where it was live streamed. www.youtube.com/watch?v=oHQChtxaThA