One Terrace parent says his frustrations with the ongoing education dispute have reached a boiling point – and he’s inviting others who share his view to join him for a rally in George Little Park tomorrow morning.
David Brochu says protests aren’t normally his thing, but with the current dispute between the province and teachers’ union about to enter its third week of closed schools, he’s been compelled to act.
“It’s three weeks into the school year and nothing seems to be getting done,” said Brochu today.
Parents need “an opportunity to speak about having your kids back in school, how important it is,” he said. “There’s a lot of things happening down south, people speaking out down there, people speaking out elsewhere in the province, but no one here, so I felt compelled… The more the government sees normal people stepping up and speaking out about what’s happening, the more it’s going to put the pressure on them to start listening.”
Brochu said he’s spoken with teachers, visited the school board office and read through decades of public documents detailing the contentious history between the provincial government and the BC Teachers’ Federation to try to understand the issues. He said he’s not pointing fingers at either side.
“It’s a longterm problem that needs a longterm solution,” he said, adding that students should be in the classroom while the two sides work out their differences. “They should be meeting halfway. Two representatives meet halfway, say let’s get the kids back in school, and whatever other grievances we have we can deal with that while they are in school.”
The two sides have been locked in their current dispute since last spring, and while there has been some movement today with reports indicating both sides have agreed to once again try mediation and go back to the negotiating table over the weekend, some speculate that schools might not open until the legislature sits Oct. 6.
That’s unacceptable for Brochu, who says he’s expecting hundreds to turn out to tomorrow’s rally and says he’ll be rallying every day until students are back in school.
“What we need to do now is step up and say, ‘this is how this is impacting our lives.’ It’s the parents and the children that are suffering the most. We need an opportunity to have our say and say, look, we don’t accept this,” he said. “Is this really benefitting our future, not giving our kids an education? Education is one of the most important things we can provide and it’s an essential part of society. If we let our education go, what’s next?”
His son, Nathan, who turns 13 in a few weeks, is entering Grade 8 at Skeena Middle School. He said he’s bored not being in school and misses seeing his friends – the Brochu’s live far out of town away from his peers. He says he was looking forward to history and science classes – “math, on the other hand” – and adds that not only has the dispute hurt the beginning of junior high, but “completely ruined” end-of-year activities last year like a scheduled dance and talent show where his friend was going to sing.
If given a chance to talk to people at the top of the dispute, Nathan says he would ask them questions. “Why is this so important? Why are you still going with this? What is the value to you? Yes, you’re going to get money, but how is that really going to affect everyone in the long run?”
The rally is scheduled for tomorrow, Saturday, Sept. 13 at 10:30 a.m. at George Little Park.