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Parents launch school fee study

B.C. parents are making sure their voices are heard when the government decides how to handle the contentious issue of school fees.

Sooke Parent Education Advisory Council (SPEAC) president Stephanie Longstaff was part of an original group of 10 parents who crafted a study in December designed to gauge how parents feel about paying school fees and related questions such as corporate sponsorship in schools.

The study is being circulated throughout seven school districts in the province including School District 62. The results will be tabulated and analyzed into a report to be submitted to the ministry of education.

Following a challenge by Victoria School District Trustee John Young, the B.C. Supreme Court rule d last fall that districts could not charge fees for materials or activities necessary for graduation. Since students now require 80 credits to graduate, such courses could include band, art, trades courses, and sports academies for which parents pay an annual fee.

Shirley Bond, the provincial Minister of Education, recently announced that the provincial government could not realistically launch an appeal to the ruling, as the courts had effectively upheld language within the existing School Act.

Now SPEAC and the school board are seeking ways to keep programs running without fees, or come up with a new mechanism to collect fees without running afoul of the law.

Longstaff said the study, which takes about 15 minutes to fill out, is a way for SPEAC to glean what parents think the government should be paying for, versus how much parents are willing to contribute financially to their children’s education.

“We’re trying to get information from the board and the parents on what they feel the government should be doing. We want to gather the parent voice,” said Longstaff.

She said the study is not meant to poll every parent throughout the province; rather, it is a sample of parental opinion.

So far seven district PACs have agreed to participate out of 60 province-wide, and if they get 10, the group will have achieved an adequate sample, said Longstaff, who noted she has received 235 completed questionnaries.

The results of the study are expected be revealed at a public meeting Jan. 22 to discuss school fees. The meeting starts at 6:30 p.m. in the north gym of Belmont secondary school.

Copies of the study have been e-mailed to parents or are available in paper format at local elementary schools. If you would like to receive one, e-mail Longstaff at sookepac@shaw.ca, or contact your local PAC president.

editor@goldstreamgazette.com

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