The word vulnerable in the media has been used a lot this past year. We as a society have been trying to figure out how to support vulnerable people, families, and children throughout the pandemic. When we think of what vulnerable means, we can generate a pretty biased and stereotypical image in our minds of what that looks like.
There are different types of vulnerable groups. I would like to acknowledge the children who are vulnerable and invisible. These are the children who no one knows about. The families who live their lives with secrets. Secrets of unsupported mental illness, addiction, poverty, abuse, medical issues, etc. These are the children who show up to school smiling, trying not to expose the family for fear that parents will go to jail, siblings will be separated, or a million other reasons that whirl around in their minds.
Cuts in education hurt children. They hurt all children. When budget cuts occur, they affect the children in ways we are all aware of, but the scariest is the ways that we are unaware of, and will never know about.
What has occurred across the province is a systemic problem that needs a systemic solution. The education system needs to be flipped upside down. It's not working the way is could or should be and if we keep doing what we have always done and just cut the budget to make numbers match on paper, we will be ignoring the lessons that we have now realized. Those lessons include that schools are the backbone to our society and without teachers, EA's, support staff and the administration to run it all, our society quickly falls apart.
Many government systems are reactive.
Our health-care system takes care of people, but they need to be sick first. Our criminal system processes people, but they need to commit a crime first. Our roads are built and infrastructure created, but we need population growth first. Education is not reactive. It's preventative. Education that meets children where they are, will decrease poverty, will decrease crime, will decrease hate, will decrease vulnerable populations, and will support, nurture, and grow the society we are all desperately craving and dreaming about. The government cannot be reactive when it comes to children and education. This is a provincial wide systemic problem that will only be solved by a provincial wide systemic solution.
I do not think the responsibility of cutting the school budgets should fall on our Boards of Education working individually with their own budget to somehow make the unworkable, work. It's impossible. Vulnerable families are vulnerable for a reason. The lack of a response, the lack of an uproar is even more concerning. If people could, they would. It should not be who is visible to us that is most concerning, but who is invisible.
These budget discussions should be led by our provincial and federal governments. They should be the ones looking for solutions.
Kim Block, Burnaby