Defending students and public education
COPE has a strong history of defending students and public education. In May 1985, a majority COPE School Board refused to be complicit in underfunding of our public education system, committing an act of civil disobedience by refusing to submit a ‘balanced budget’ - code for accepting cuts to funding. This act proved successful, as funding was restored after a by-election was called and COPE School Board trustees were re-elected.
In 2014, the elected officials have changed but COPE’s fights remain the same. If elected, a COPE School Board will not be complicit in further cuts to public education. A COPE School Board will be strong voices for anti-poverty advocacy, ensuring that every student and family can afford to stay in this city to receive a quality public education. COPE will continue to ensure that every student, regardless of their gender or sexuality, feels safe at their school with comprehensive educational initiatives. COPE will create training programs that solidify anti-oppressive best practices for all staff involved in the public education system. COPE will ensure that every student is empowered to reach their full educational potential.
COPE will also ensure that the stated goal of Vancouver becoming ‘The Greenest School Board in North America’ is reached through a holistic, comprehensive, and participatory process. The leadership of the Vision-led School Board has failed to build momentum to reach this goal. As COPE, we will create a Students’ Environmental Bill of Rights ensuring that every student from K-12 better understands the environmental, social, and economic reasons of our current environmental crisis. Students will further be empowered to co-create solutions for a more sustainable path, making schools the hub of community and creative life.
How will COPE defend public education?
SUPPORTING TEACHERS AND INCREASED FUNDING FOR PUBLIC SCHOOLS
COPE will insist on sufficient funding to allow smaller class sizes at both the elementary and secondary level. COPE will insist that the provincial government restore sufficient local bargaining to allow school board to negotiate directly with the teachers’ unions to establish appropriate, flexible, and meaningful class size and composition limits for Vancouver students.
COPE will advocate changing the current provincial funding model in order to prioritize funding for public education and eliminate funding for private education. COPE will not be complicit or co-operate in further cuts to the public education system in Vancouver.
COPE will work with our valiant Public Education unions to ensure that the 2014 Supreme Court ruling regarding Bill 22 will be effectively implemented in Vancouver. COPE will see the classroom and services to the classroom as its first priority, and will aim to support new teachers through mentoring programs. COPE will continue to focus on the need to advocate for public education by promoting, advancing the engagement with parents (including Parent Advisory Committees), unions, employee groups, and the “village.”
British Columbia leads the country in child poverty rates with one in five children considered statistically poor. Child poverty directly affects the school board of Vancouver with 2% of students leaving the district due to families no longer being able to afford living in this city. This has devastated school board budgets and has led to a less robust public education system.
COPE will work with all levels of government to advocate for a comprehensive poverty reduction plan that provides students with all the resources to succeed during their education. COPE will also advocate for anti-poverty measures such as raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour, implementing affordable child care policies, and treating housing as a right, not a commodity.
STUDENTS’ ENVIRONMENTAL BILL OF RIGHTS
COPE will Implement a Students’ Environmental Bill of Rights, which will:
- Support youth participation and initiatives in the development of green programs
- Develop a targeted Greenhouse Gas Emission Reduction Program
- Support the establishment of school gardens where possible
- Establish a VSB Bike Advisory Committee
- Lobby for funding to build/upgrade schools that are green and meet silver/gold LEEDS
standards (e.g. heating and solar)
- Work closely with Toxic Free Canada to remove toxic paints and cleaning products from
schools and to ensure a fragrance and allergy free environment
- Encourage and facilitate the use of alternative methods of transportation by staff, parents and
COPE will pressure the provincial government to address the need for earthquake amelioration of schools, especially those with construction that is known to be a hazard.
COPE will also develop policies that ensure that foods served in Vancouver Schools are healthy, and will visit the issue of junk food in schools and look into ways of implementing and coordinating other food policy programs with Vancouver Schools.
INCORPORATING ANTI-RACISM ON ALL STRUCTURAL LEVELS
COPE acknowledges that racism is still pervasive in our society and that students of color are bullied throughout their time in the public educational system. According to a recent study conducted by the Aboriginal Enhancement Agreement, First Nations students are three times more likely to experience bullying due to racism.COPE will implement a full-time anti-racism coordinator (currently sitting at 0.02 FTE). COPE will institute mandatory anti-racism training for all staff that work in schools. COPE will ensure that no educational material in classrooms use racial slurs.
REPRESENTATIVE CONSULTATION AND PARTICIPATION
COPE will strengthen school facilities by developing a district approach to protect and improve neighbourhood schools, including daycare/after school care space, gyms and activity rooms that meet the needs of the school community, and will lobby for school playground funding to remove and replace unsafe playground equipment. (i.e. secure and boost the Annual Facility Grant).
SPECIAL NEEDS POLICIES
COPE supports VSBs Inclusion Policies, but demands adequate support in order to put those policies into working order.
COPE supports VSBs Independent Education Plan policies, and demands that there be an increase of Support Staff in order to put those policies into action. Support Staff have been significantly cut in the last 5 years, and bringing back the numbers is key to making our schools viable and healthy for all children.
COPE advocates having sensory rooms in every school, in order to support children with mobility disabilities, and various physical special needs for physiotherapy and sensory stimulation. This would include equipment like swings, mats, lifts, bean bag chairs, nubby things for sensory stimulation and exploration, walkers, pressure vests, sand box, etc.
COPE advocates that every school be made wheelchair accessible, and that all new schools being developed be made accessible to those with mobility concerns.
COPE will double the amount of VSB psychologists attending to psychological testing, to speed up a 4 year wait list (average for schools in eastvan) to a 2 year wait list, for designation allocation.
COPE demands the increase of School Physiotherapists to ensure that proper care and attention is given to each student with development needs and proper resources are given and available to each child.
PROGRESSIVE TRAINING ON GENDER AND SEXUALITY
COPE supports the Safer Spaces policies of the VSB.
COPE advocates an integration of queer sexuality, gender construction, gender fluidity, and transgender issues in sexual education programs, in a more clear and non-heteronormative sex ed program. COPE demands explanations of all gender and sexual preferences to bring respect and understanding of all sexualities. COPE also supports the language of consent to be introduced to all sexual education programs.
COPE demands 2 full time LGBTQ VSB workers and that all staff in schools are trained in complex gender and sexuality issues by the LGBTQ VSB staff members. COPE also supports the extension of LGBTQ to LGBTQ2SAIP to include 2 Spirited, Asexual, Intersexual, and Pansexual persons into the dialogue.
COPE demands that the gender binary not be used for sorting children (ie: girl, boy, girl, boy) but something banal, like green shirt, blue shirt, etc. COPE also advocates that all pronouns are used and explained in classrooms and that the education of female positive, male positive, they positive narratives. COPE also requests Gender Neutral bathrooms in all schools for children beyond gender norms.
COPE supports the removal of marriage focussed, heteronormative nursery rhymes from use in classrooms.
ADVOCACY FOR MENTAL HEALTH
COPE demands the re-instatement of all Special Remedial Programs, and Social Development Programs in elementary and high school. High risk, violent students have been placed out of their support programs with professionals who understand their intersectionalities, to mainstream school systems, without support, which is a risk not only to themselves, but to other students and staff as well.
COPE will review existing policies and develop new policies that have the objective of promoting inclusive, accepting and safe school environments for all students.
COPE acknowledges that one in four children struggle with anxiety, and that mindfullness needs to be built into our school programming, and demands Mindfulness Training for every teacher, and support staff in order to develop skills in personal modification and calm down strategies that work for large groups of students. The Mindfulness Program is also known to increase grade averages in classrooms, as decreasing anxiety increases learning potential.
COPE also advocates a Calm Down Room for every school to be used by students who need a safe space throughout the day to relieve ADHD, emotional anxieties, and for emotional and physical de-escalation.
COPE also advocates Mental Health Awareness training, Non Violent Communication and Conflict Resolution training, and Behaviour Intervention training for all staff to better equip them to address the many nuances in every Independent Education Plan.
PRIORITIZING ABORIGINAL AND FIRST NATIONS EDUCATION
COPE advocates that every school have a Native name, to recognize that all schools are on unceded Coast Salish territories. Each school would consult with local First Nations for this process. COPE also believes that all school assemblies must acknowledge the unceded territories of the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh nations.
COPE demands that there is a First Nations Worker at every school to work with all First Nations students, help with Anti-Racism policies, lead acknowledgements, be a resource for students on pre-colonial histories, and support teachers in covering First Nations issues. This is necessary in all schools, regardless of First Nations enrolment levels, to build a school culture that is welcoming to all students. First Nations children are 3 times more likely to be bullied than other students; schools must become culturally safe spaces for students to learn and graduate.
COPE demands pre-colonial histories be taught in every classroom. VSB has included this in their mandate, but teachers need support from First Nations Elders and community members to ensure that this education is accurate and respectful to the local First Nations communities. With 50% of First Nations children not completing high school, and with the lack of safe space being a major concern, we need to address the cultural racism towards First Nations now.
COPE advocates the creation of Mini Schools over full alternative schools, to avoid ghettoisation. The idea is not to lump all the same needs in one area, but to support children of all various needs - cultural, emotional, financial, physical - so that all spaces become safe spaces. COPE demands that all school systems be made to be culturally safe for First Nations students, but that all alternative programs remain in place, and remain funded, to support the diversity of educational needs and environments required.