Local candidates on education
Local Green and NDP candidates agree the BC Liberals have spent too much time fighting teachers, while the Liberals say their track record shows a commitment to education. “Locally, I’m glad that we have long-term labour peace with the BC Teachers’ Federation,” said Norm Letnick, Liberal candidate for Kelowna-Lake Country.
This past November, the Supreme Court of Canada reinstated language from a former collective agreement, restoring class size and composition to 2002 levels.
“Moving forward, I totally hope that we can achieve another long-term agreement with the teachers’ federation to continue the labour peace that we have, so we can continue focusing on the needs of our kids,” said Letnick.
Letnick said he plans to continue advocating for the replacement of and the building of schools as needed in the Central Okanagan.
“We announced not too long ago moving forward with the new school in the (Mission),” he said. “We continue to have a great working relationship with School District 23, and they basically work through what their capital priorities are, and my job is to try and advocate for our kids to get the funds that we need.”
Letnick said his main message to local constituents about education is, “lots done, more to do.”
Shelley Cook, the NDP’s candidate for Kelowna West, said her focus is on dealing with the basic necessities of students, including child poverty and affordability.
“I’m hearing a lot of concern from teachers who are worried about children coming to their schools in poverty, hungry and not able to meet their basic needs, let alone feeling that their educational needs are not being met,” said Cook.
“We need to stop fighting with parents and teachers and do what we know works in terms of developing healthy, responsible young people.”
The BC NDP has promised an extra $30 million annually towards education for the next three years if elected.
“I think it’s about developing a public school system that people can depend on,” said Cook. “This is not a massive amount of money when we know when we invest in these things, there is positive economic return.”
The BC Greens have promised to increase public school funding by $220 million this year, rising to $1.46 billion in extra funding by 2020-21.
“I think that our biggest challenge has been how the BC Liberal government has opposed teachers, fighting them in court, spending multitudes of cash,” said Rainer Wilkins, Green candidate for Kelowna Mission.
“I believe that our teachers are experts with regards to our kids’ education, along with parents, and that we should listen to those experts.”
Wilkins, a parent of two young children, said he is hearing from teachers that they are underfunded.
“The school near where I live, Chute Lake Elementary, is a relatively new school, and it’s full,” he said.
The Greens also plan to invest $35 million in nutrition and physical activity programs for students.
“If students aren’t healthy and aren’t getting enough nutritious meals, their ability to learn is hindered,” said Wilkins.
We need to stop fighting with parents and teachers and do what we know works in terms of developing healthy, responsible young people.
Kelowna West NDP candidate Shelley Cook