School Trustees Ready to Debate...Mining
Staring today the BC School Trustees Association is holding its 102nd Annual Meeting in Prince George and one of the motions facing delegates concerns the impact of the resource sector on northern BC.
You may ask yourself what does a meeting of elected school trustees have to do with our newly reinvigorated resource sector?
And it would be a good question, especially given all the challenges actually facing our education sector. But a group of trustees has decided that this sector is responsible for a whole series of social ills facing their towns.
Just to remind you, the industries under attack are characterized by high-paying jobs, good benefits and the potential to bring prosperity to struggling northern communities - communities that traditionally have the highest unemployment rates in the province and the lowest student scores.
AGM motion number 15, oddly filed under the category of “Student/Curriculum”, moves that the BCSTA lobby the provincial government to bring in heavier regulations in the resource sector. The trustees bringing this forward include those representing regions hit hard by the departure of resource companies in this province in the 1990s: Quesnel, Prince George, Peace River North and South, Fort Nelson, Stikine and Nechako Lakes.
What it boils down to is these trustees are afraid that the “boom” times accompanying new mills, mines and port operations expose the kids in the town to all sorts of negative influences.
These include, from their perspective: lack of child supervision, school truancy, increased student drop-out rates as students leave school to go to high paying jobs, increased incidents of suicide, increased transience rates, family violence, migration of disassociated youth to major centres, malnutrition, addiction and other health-related issues.
It seems to me that many of these very negative items could just as easily be attributed to poverty and isolation.
A call to the communications staff at the BCSTA suggested that this basket of accusations was developed from anecdotal experience, not hard research. Calls to the trustee behind the motion were not returned.
Most of all, this motion completely fails to address the important impact that socio-economic status has on student achievement in schools and poverty in general.
Both BCTF and the Fraser Institute studies have shown that students who come from families with good incomes tend to have higher rates of success in school completion, literacy, and numeracy.
If that is the case, and I believe it is, then it seems very strange that those in charge of our schools would prefer to discourage a strong northern economy by adding additional hoops to the bureaucracy a company must leap through before opening up operations.
Why blame the resource sector for this list of societal ills when, for many communities, these jobs will finally provide the economic strength so that the kids living there can succeed in school and in life?
Full disclosure: Erin Airton works with a mining company with no BC-based operations.