Qualicum school board wants an apology from education minister

Board chair Eve Flynn not happy with Mike Bernier's recent comments on a radio show

The local school board is asking for an apology from the Minister of Education after Mike Bernier showed “a blatant disregard and lack of respect” for school boards with his comments on a radio station Feb. 23.

When asked on CBC’s Morning Edition about complaints from groups that B.C.’s education system is underfunded, Bernier said: “We constantly hear from a few groups that it is underfunded. Unfortunately when you hear that noise from a few groups all the time that is what people start to believe.”

Qualicum School District 69 board of trustees chair Eve Flynn sent a letter to Bernier on Friday, asking for a public apology from the minister.

“Your comments demonstrate a lack of understanding for those advocating on behalf of our students,” wrote Flynn. “Your remarks marginalize and dismiss hundreds of thousands of people in the province. They show a blatant disregard and lack of respect for school boards who are working within a co-governance model with the Ministry of Education.”

The letter said the District 69 board of trustees “respectfully request a public apology to your partners in education who work so tirelessly to ensure students are provided with the best possible supports to ensure their success in B.C.’s public school system.”

The letter was cc’d to The NEWS, School District 69 officials, the president of the local teachers’ association, the president of CUPE Local 3570, the co-chairs of the district-wide parent advisory council, other school boards in the province and MLAs Scott Fraser and

Michelle Stilwell.

In the radio interview, Bernier spoke about the increases in government funding for the education system. He provided the response that triggered Flynn’s letter when asked why people continue to hear that the system is underfunded.

In her letter, Flynn pointed to groups like the B.C. Teachers Federation, support staff, parent advisory councils and boards of education who have made pleas for more funding.

“You must certainly be aware, in your capacity as Education Minister, of the numerous organizations and their affiliated people that support and advocate for quality public education in this province,” wrote Flynn.

“Over the past few years, all of these organizations have written letters and/or had verbal consultations with you and your predecessors imploring the province to change how it funds public education.”

Flynn also wrote that Bernier, through his comments, is dismissing the government’s own Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services, which Flynn said has recommended increases in financial support to public education.