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LETTER: Surrey trustee says education underfunding has caused 'extreme hardship'

Board vice-chair fears she can't do the job she was elected to do; urges both sides to get back to the negotiating table to end dispute.

Minister Fassbender and Premier Clark:

I am writing this letter to you as a Trustee in Surrey and not as a direction from the Surrey Board of Education.

In the statement issued by the Ministry on July 2, it was stated that "BCPSEA is ready to meet whenever BCTF is ready to commit to a fair and affordable settlement."

It is not just the settlement that has hampered many districts, including Surrey, that has put students parents, teachers, staff and schools in the situation they are in now.

Our Board recently wrote to you requesting that the previous structure of the BCPSEA be reinstated. Surrey has always remained silent in the public and always worked behind the scenes trying to find solutions.

At this time, I cannot be silent any longer. I recently have sent two emails about my concerns about a mediator, prior to one trying to be appointed, and my personal concern as a Trustee over class size and composition. I have not received a reply to either email.

The issues we are all facing today is the continual cutbacks of funding that districts have had to deal with. The underfunding has caused extreme hardship not just for parents, staff, teachers but mostly students.

As a parent of four children who all graduated in Surrey I never had to worry about the safety or unavailability of services, so it is a great concern as being a Trustee that I cannot do the job I was elected to do.

We would not be in this tug of war of BCTF and the government if schools

were adequately funded to start with. This affects the number of CUPE staff, SEAs, child care workers, specialists, helping teachers, aboriginal workers, counsellors, etc. that we as a board need to hire. These are vital workers who assist teachers in the classroom and allow them to do the job they have been professionally trained to do, but with cutbacks, important positions have been cut.

As Surrey being one of the very few districts with highly increasing enrolment, the situation is even compounded. You are aware of the overcrowding and the cost of portables that we have had to take from our budget that directly takes funding out of the classroom. By not funding for schools for so many years, Surrey has had to rely on portables and it has been a tremendous cost and we have met with you and the MLAs about all of the problems that go along with this so I won't go over all of those concerns.

I ask you as a parent of the community, and as a Trustee to not only earnestly try to meet and negotiate with the BCTF and I am asking the same from the BCTF, but to consider the effects that years of underfunding of the education system has caused and to remedy this. I fully understand that we have been told there is no money, but children are our future and this needs to be addressed.

As suggested in a previous email, visiting a classroom for a full day would give you a first hand look at how classroom size and composition affects the classroom and the job teachers and staff deal with everyday. Again as stated in the previous email earlier I do appreciate you visiting our District on various occasions but actually sitting in a classroom for a full day would give you a very accurate picture of what teachers, staff, CUPE, Admin, and students have to deal with. The Board has done the very best we can to alleviate some pressures but more funding is needed to give Surrey students schools and needed services they deserve.

Thank you for taking the time to read this email. Please feel free to call or email me if you have any questions. As stated at the beginning, this email is from me as a Trustee, not the Board, but I am sure they may feel the same about the underfunding, portable costs and how the dispute has affected staff, parents, teachers, CUPE , but more importantly the students.


Laurie Larsen


Surrey Board of Education