Education assistants concerned about impact of school district budget

Sometimes they go to work sick, because there is nobody to replace them

Teachers in School District 69 (Qualicum) aren’t the only ones fed up with their contracts. Two of the 125 District 69 education assistants (EAs), went before the school board at the Feb. 28 meeting to state how budget cuts are effecting CUPE support staff.

Education assistant Sheila Smith said even though they are highly trained professionals they have never been more than part-time employees and have no job security. She added they earn hourly wages, not salaries like teachers, and their income is not more than about $28,000 a year. She added they are short staffed and spread thin and EAs need more support.

Smith stated that many EA’s in the district work full days yet are paid part-time hours. She said without them, special needs children couldn’t take part in regular school activities.

“The district is doing an injustice to students and without EA support many students are slipping through the cracks,” she stated.

She said she is overworked and underpaid but she still loves her job and hopes the new board will respond responsibly when budget cuts are proposed.

Patrice McFarlane expressed the same sentiments. The EA told the board that there isn’t adequate coverage in the classrooms to begin with and students have been sent home because of a lack of EAs.

“They go to work sick because they will not be replaced,” stated McFarlane.

She said it effects students and their success in the classroom.

“It’s a viscous cycle. Resources are a problem and it is impeding students learning.  We are speaking up in hopes this can change,” stated McFarlane.