Cuts compel MP to speak out

I read the March 11 story  in your paper that mentions my letter to the provincial minister of education (MP’s Letter to Education Minister Panned by Trail-area Trustees).

Normally I do not involve myself in provincial matters, however upon receipt of a letter from Rossland citizens and after consulting with our MLA, the chair of the school district as well as the mayors of Rossland, Castlegar and Trail, I decided that I had to speak out.

No one had previously approached me in regard to the concept raised earlier regarding Webster and Glenmerry schools. I was approached by concerned citizens in Beaverdell awhile ago and, in consultation with the school district and their MLA John Slater, wrote a letter to the minister on their behalf.

We are having this discussion as a result of decisions made by a provincial government that has not and does not properly support public education. Since the current B.C. Liberal government was elected in 2001, it has chosen to shut down hospitals and schools and, simultaneously cut major funding to school programs throughout the province.

This has resulted in a shell game of budgetary explanations from the beginning, with the government stating that public education is receiving a growing percentage of the overall budget.

The untold part of that story is that many other ministries and departments have received larger cuts or have been closed altogether so that these kind of claims are more like smoke and mirrors than the reality that those of us involved in the public education system in any capacity are experiencing.

That is why I am asking the provincial government to review urban/rural funding for schools and to ensure that our small rural communities remain vibrant, innovative and viable places to live.

We are not statistics to be manipulated on somebody’s desk in Victoria. We need a clear statement on this from all political parties prior to the next provincial election.

We have three distinct and dynamic secondary schools in our district. Our schools complement one another in serving our children. We need to work to ensure that the provincial government provides sufficient resources for this purpose.

Let’s not permit the egregious decisions of the past to tear us apart but rather let us gather our resolve in the present. At this moment in time, we need to stand together to support the citizens of Rossland who wish to maintain their high school. Let us also stand together to ensure that not one more school in this district is closed.

Thank you, in advance, for your help in clarifying the situation.

MP Alex Atamanenko

B.C. Southern Interior