COPE trustee Jane Bouey sums up the Vision/COPE election campaign's focus in two words-advocacy and engagement.
"We are going to work for schools that have smaller class sizes, more supports for students, greener schools and advocate for the funds necessary to be able to do that," she told the Courier.
Bouey, a longtime trustee, said advocacy involves a combination of public pressure on the provincial government and behind the-scenes lobbying by trustees. "We have a lot of private meetings with the Minister [of Education] and the ministry. We send letters that we don't ever make public, sometimes just to indicate our position on things and to do things in a quiet, respectful way, but we also think that when necessary it's important to go public and let the public know what it is we're thinking. That way there's more than just us asking the government to do things," she said.
Although advocacy didn't result in more money for the school board budget last year, Bouey maintains budget cuts haven't been as bad as they could have been thanks to advocacy efforts, which she argues have been "extremely effective."
"Advocacy has resulted in the provincial government putting money towards schools in the last little while. They wouldn't have put dollars towards that if they weren't getting public pressure to do so," Bouey said. "And we got money returned for annual facilities grants. We got the HST rebates that at first they weren't going to give school boards. We got that through advocacy-the list goes on and on."
Vision Vancouver and COPE are running a joint slate for the 2011 election with five Vision and four COPE trustee candidates. Bouey is running with Allan Wong, who worked as an on-call teacher before joining Telus Mobility, Al Blakey, who is a retired teacher, and Gwen Giesbrecht, who owns a hair and esthetics salon and who stepped down from her position as chairperson of the District Parent Advisory Council to run for office.
Vision is fielding Patti Bacchus, a longtime public school activist, Mike Lombardi, a retired teacher, Ken Clement, CEO of the Canadian Aboriginal AIDS Network and the first aboriginal candidate to be elected to the school board, Cherie Payne, who has a law degree, and Rob Wynen, a health professional.
Six of the nine are incumbents. Newcomers include Giesbrecht, as well as Payne, who ran unsuccessfully for an NPA school board seat in 2002 before Vision emerged on the political scene, and Wynen who intended to seek a park board nomination under Vision, but filled the school board slate at the last minute after Ryan Clayton opted out for health reasons.
Payne told the Courier the main issue facing public schools is inadequate funding from the provincial government.
"The division that we see between Vision and COPE and the NPA is the question of advocacy. We on the Vision-COPE side really believe that trustees can make a difference through advocacy to the provincial government and it is our responsibility to take that task on," she said.
"So we've put that at the forefront of our campaign and from it leads to securing more provincial funding, which of course allows us to promote individualized learning, to promote equity and safety within schools, to provide innovative programs like the aboriginal-focused school and the bilingual and Mandarin programs. All of these types of initiatives come down to having adequate and sustained funding from the provincial government. It's why it's at the heart of our campaign."