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February 5, 2009

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Investment in public education key to economic stimulus – poll

Barry O'Neill with Cindy Oliver from the Federation of Post-Secondary Educators on his right and Lorene Oikawa, BCGEU, on his left.Barry O'Neill with Cindy Oliver from the Federation of Post-Secondary Educators on his right and Lorene Oikawa, BCGEU, on his left.VICTORIA—An overwhelming majority (86 percent) of British Columbians believe investment in public education should be a key part of any economic stimulus plan in the upcoming provincial budget, and two-thirds would support the province running a deficit in order to maintain the current system, according to a poll released today by the BC Coalition for Public Education.

“This is an important message for the B.C. government as it puts together its plan to get the economy back on track,” says CUPE BC president Barry O’Neill.

“CUPE is in a unique position – as we represent workers in every part of the public education system – in public schools, at colleges and in all the universities. I am pleased to see such a high level of public support for funding and improving the services these members provide,” says O’Neill.

Coalition spokesperson Shamus Reid, who also chairs the BC division of the Canadian Federation of Students, warns against any plans by the B.C. government to cut education funding, saying starving schools and post-secondary institutions will create a “false economy” that will seriously impact an already underfunded, beleaguered education system.

“Our poll shows the public is worried about the current state of our education system,” Reid says. “Since 2002, 177 schools have closed. Others need seismic upgrading. ESL and special needs programs are inadequate. Tuition fees have skyrocketed, massively increasing student debt. Cash-strapped colleges and universities have had to limit enrolment and cut programs. Trades, technology and apprenticeship programs lack funds to meet industry needs and to make BC a world-class centre for research and innovation,” says Reid.

Along with its poll, the coalition released a five-point plan calling for new and renewed investment to improve the quality and accessibility of elementary, secondary and post-secondary education.

More information about the Coalition for Public Education, the poll results and the plan can be found at www.bccpe.ca.

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