Voters to elect Vancouver School Board after year-long absence
Find out how trustee candidates would deal with seismic upgrading, school closures and bullying allegations.
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Vancouver has been without an elected school board since October 2016, when then-education minister Mike Bernier fired the entire board after it failed to pass a balanced budget and allegations of bullying and harassment surfaced.
Many of the candidates now running say they hope for a less divisive atmosphere with the change of government from the B.C. Liberals to an NDP government supported by the B.C. Green Party, and the outcome of a Supreme Court case that has led to more teachers being hired this year.
“I believe that all the stress and things we’ve heard about happening at the board table previously strongly had to do with the fact that the stress of 16 years of underfunding,” said Erica Jaaf, a school trustee candidate with OneCity.
Here are the issues at play as Vancouverites prepare to vote on Saturday, Oct. 14 for nine school trustees.
With more funding for the public school system, candidates say they are hoping not to be put in the same situation as 2016, when the board was faced with the difficult and very unpopular task of identifying schools to close.
Vision Vancouver, the Green Party of Vancouver and OneCity say they will protect existing school properties (even if enrolment numbers drop, OneCity adds), while NPA candidates commit to build new schools in the growing high-density neighbourhoods of Olympic Village, Coal Harbour, the River District and the Cambie Corridor. Vision candidates also say they will advocate for provincial funding for new schools in those areas.
Two reports found that the previous board, split between Vision and NPA trustees with a sole Green trustee, had bullied and harassed senior staff. While former NPA trustees, two of whom are running again, and former Green trustee Janet Fraser have released unredacted versions of those reports, Vision candidates have refused (three out of five Vision candidates served on the previous board).
NPA held a press conference to sign an anti-bullying pledge — which Vision dismissed as a toothless campaign stunt.
Vision, the NPA and the Greens all cite seismic upgrading as one of their top priorities, while the issue is absent from OneCity and COPE’s platforms. The Greens are calling for seismic funding to be accelerated: there are over 60 schools that still require upgrades, which are supposed to be complete within the next 13 years. Vision candidates are touting their party’s track record of securing funding for seismic upgrading.
Private school funding
OneCity and the Coalition of Progressive Electors both say they will advocate for the elimination of provincial government funding of private schools. OneCity is calling for that funding to be redirected into the public school system.
French immersion, hot lunch programs, music, adult education: all were on the chopping block during the years of budget restraint. While Vision is reminding voters that the NPA often voted for cuts in an attempt to balance the budget, Vision, NPA and the Greens says they’ll now push for expanded programming for arts, music, French immersion and other languages, and Aboriginal education programming.
Read more about the parties and their candidates at: Votevision.ca; Green17.ca; Onecityvancouver.ca; Npavancouver.ca; and Cope.bc.ca.