LETTER | Why parents and supporters are taking the picket to St. George’s private school

st.george school

Tomorrow morning a group of parents and supporters will be picketing outside one of Vancouver’s most well-funded private schools.

While public schools remain closed, private schools continue to operate and draw on the public purse. We will be picketing to call for the immediate opening of public schools, full funding for a quality public education system, and an end to public funding for private elite schools.

The current closure of public schools in B.C. highlights the fact that when Premier Christy Clark talks about ‘families first’ she is talking about rich families exclusively.

Under the Christy Clark Liberals the economic situation for poor women and children steadily worsens. B.C. has the highest incidence of child poverty of any province in Canada, and the ratio between high-income and low-income earners is rising. B.C. has welfare rates so low that according the Dieticians of Canada a person on welfare can’t possibly afford to eat properly. B.C.has record numbers of visibly homeless people and a rising number of housing-insecure individuals and families. Liberal policies of privatization, tax cuts for the rich, de-facto cuts to redistributive social programs, and user-fees for access to necessary services like Medical Services Plan mean the rich are getting richer and the poor getting poorer in our province.

Education has never been the ‘great equalizer’ it is rumoured to be, especially not for working class women, and certainly not for Indigenous women and working class women who have faced racialization, colonization, and forced migration. If you believe in the myth of meritocracy it is time to face the truth. The existence of a two-tiered education system with well-funded and well-equipped private schools for the rich from kindergarten to grade 12 and a grossly unequal educational system which penalizes poor communities with inadequate funding for a higher ratio of kids with complicated educational needs exposes the public education system as a system which replicates existing social and economic inequalities.

While rich families blithely engage in reproducing the current class order and economic structure, sending their kids to private schools that cost more in tuition that many working class families live on for an entire year, our kids are suffering from difficult learning conditions, inadequate social and economic supports, and now the social and mental health consequences of social isolation and interruption of educational and social routines.

I stand with the teachers and their demands for smaller class sizes and greatly improved teaching supports. I know from the lived experiences of my eldest two children, who were meant to start grade 8 and grade 12 at an East Vancouver high-school this year, that our teachers are passionate, caring, and empathetic public workers who struggle to support our children in increasingly difficult classroom circumstances. The only reason this strike even had to occur is that Christy Clark and her B.C. Liberal government are prioritizing pipelines over public schools in a political context where the poor have no voice but that of protest and civil disobedience.

We are picketing St. George’s private school because it is unacceptable that while our kids suffer a tremendous loss, while our extended families and communities are struggling to fill a devastating gap in child care, the children of the most affluent and powerful people in the province, including the Premier, continue on with business as usual, taking advantage of their publicly-subsidized private education.

St. George’s school produces and replicates structural inequities in our society.  It is a social mechanism whereby affluent families ensure the educational success of their children, smooth their entrance into prestigious and expensive universities, and facilitate their rise into positions of power and privilege. There is no public good in this and this reproduction of class inequities should not be publicly subsidized.

We are picketing at St. George’s because we think that students and parents at the school should be exposed to real world consequences of school privatization, economic class exploitation, and rising inequalities. If the wealthy and powerful parents who send their children to St. George’s are really concerned about the well-being of all children they should join in opposing the $300 million subsidy to private education in BC and should advocate for a fully funded quality public education system for all children regardless of class background and affluence.

But most of all we are picketing at St. George’s because we hope to inspire and encourage other working class and poor women to stand up, get organized and confront the structural forces that  produce and reproduce our poverty and oppression, and to demand a future of economic justice and dignity for all.

–Martha Roberts
September 15, 2014

The picket will begin at 7:45am at St. George’s Junior School, 3851 West 29th Ave
For more information or to arrange help with transportation:
Call 604 312 5529 or email grassrootswomen@gmail.com