Monday, January 12, 2009

The High Cost of Exercise

John Young is a Victoria school trustee.

He has successfully sued his own school board and the Ministry of Education over the charging of extra fees in the public-school system.

Now Young is plotting a Charter of Rights challenge that he hopes will lead to a country-wide ban on supplemental school fees, from kindergarten through Grade 12.

"I can prove that the requirement of a fee to take a course is discriminatory against children who don't have the money to pay," said the 87-year-old former high-school principal, who began his crusade to abolish school fees more than a decade ago.

Twice in the past year, I have praised him lavishly in these pages. I think he is a great role model for citizenship. (I cannot seem to find a "search" function on my blog, so I cannot quickly reference these posts for you.) NOTE: One of our commenters has magically figured out that my previous postings on Mr. Young can be found here and here. Many thanks!

Let me praise Mr. Young again.

What he is saying repeatedly and successfully in these law suits is that children should not have to pay for art supplies,banjos, and soccer balls at public schools. And he is right.

The only problem is that the provincial government's reaction to Young's successful rulings is to change the law!

The province amended its legislation to allow for surcharges on things such as band instruments, trades programs and specialty sports and arts "academies."

"The result is fees of more than $100 a month are being charged for soccer and hockey programs," said Mr. Young, now in his sixth term as a school trustee.

"It's true these academies are permitted under the act, but they violate the principle that all educational programs must be provided free of charge."

Frustrated by the province's "end-around" response to the first two decisions, Mr. Young has decided to launch a third challenge based on non-discrimination provisions contained in Section 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

"If it proves to be discrimination, this could apply all across Canada," he said.

Let's look at this struggle from another angle.

The Premier of the Province of British Columbia is Gordon Campbell.

Mr. Campbell is investing billions in roads, condos, security, advertising (Don't get me started on using Donald Sutherland for 2010 ads! They couldn't choose any one of thousands of great voices for one tenth the price?) and lord knows what else to celebrate athleticism. Or so the official, teary-eyed, patriotic story goes.

But the same Campbell who will move mountains to provide a place for 10 days of skiing, will change the law so that he doesn't have to pay for kids' sports equipment in schools.

Question: Are all young boys and girls who are gifted at sports also rich? Do they all come from families for whom extra fees are no hardship?

We are prepared, or we are getting prepared, as a society to invest in high octane training schools for tennis players and swimmers and skiers (provided of course that they fall in the politically significant jurisdictions and we can be there for the ribbon cutting foto op).

But we not only will not provide the $30 or $180 dollars for school kids to be involved in sports (and the arts and cooking), but we are so loathe to do so, that when the courts order us to, we change the law!

Aside from fitting snugly in to the category of penny-wise, pound-foolish, this shows us once again the cheesy priorities of the Premier.


Gazetteer said...

I very much agree with our assessment of the good Mr. Young, and his good works, Mr. B.

And as someone with two kids in the system who can (reluctantly) afford to pay the extra, I've seen the effect it has on other parents who have much more difficulty doing so.

Paying the extra, I mean.

But here's the real thing.....

When I was a kid growing up in this province a generation and-a-half or so ago, my parents, despite the fact that they were fine providers who worked really hard to make the lives of their kids better, would probably be in the latter camp now.

However, despite my family's relatively modest means, I never lacked for anything school-wise that even my wealthiest friends had.

And as someone who grew up on, what was then at least, the wrong side of the tracks in Oak Bay, I had some very wealthy friends.

I also ended up doing reasonably well academically, both in public school and quite far beyond, in large part because of the great value-added education I received as a kid*.

So I'll be damned if I'm going to become a ladder-puller-upper now.


By the way, the links to your previous posts on the good Mr. Young are here and here.

*as an aside, when I was working at quite a reasonably well-known institution of so-called higher learning in the Excited States, I once asked my boss why she hired so many Canadians. She said it was because our public education system was so much better than theirs. Well, that and the fact that we're so darned nice all the time....


Anonymous said...

I can't remember whether I made this comment on this blog before, but in case I haven't I will repeat it.

I was in a Palliative Care workshop where we were learning about the worldwide epidemic of HIV/AIDS. We were shown a map of the world and the incidence of HIV/AIDS shown, per capita, in varying colours, darker colours meaning higher reported cases.

I was curious as to why certain countries had higher incidents, even though they shared similar cultures, religions, behavioral morals, etc. I asked the facilitator.

She advised that this question had been asked a lot. All variables were considered and one thing remained constant...

The countries with the larger gap between the rich and the poor had higher incidences of HIV/AIDS.

The US has more cases than Canada. Canada has more cases than most North European countries.

Gordon Campbell's policies of keeping education in the realm of the wealthier members of society is not just a matter of education .... extrapolated, it becomes of matter of public health.

The same argument applied to his short sighted, cruel minimum wage of $8.00 per hour.

These laws and policies continue to widen the gap between rich and poor. The poor will continue to become more vulnerable - even to the point of their health.

These are sick, sick policies.

Linda Yuill

Mike MacDonald said...

The Province also won’t pay for playgrounds in schools…non-essential. We have 2-3 elementary schools in Langley, elementary schools, with no playgrounds or the playgrounds being removed next summer.

The parents (PAC) are left to carry the bill ($40,000-60,000) for a playground that will be in the school for the next 20-30 years.

The Province, the School board, the city all say they cannot afford playgrounds in schools. This while the Province pays for Olympics? While they fund a healthy living program? While they fund Obesity Awareness?

The Langley MLA false-claims they do pay for playgrounds; she is referring to a grant program from the gaming commission where schools can apply and beg for ½ to 1/3 of the amount required. This year the program has 480+ applications and enough money for about 75-100 of those applications…so the PACS are stuck with the bill.

I would like to mention Coast Capital Savings has offered $10,000 for one of our Langley school playgrounds - I am on the schools PAC and SPC (Uplands Elementary)