September 2, 2014

By Margaret H. Johnson

What happened to the ‘back to school’ part of back to school expenses? In my entire working career, I’ve never seen this one before.

Usually, in August, we would be busy cautioning parents to be careful with their expenditures. We would strongly recommend people stick to their family budget, or if you haven’t got one, then sit down now and try to do one. If you need any help, don’t hesitate to contact me or check our websites at:

http://www.debtcanada.ca/ or http://creditsolutions.ca/

This year is extraordinary because of a contract dispute between teachers and the BC provincial government that has dragged on all summer, without giving any clear indication that children would be even going back to school in September, 2014. It’s one thing to budget for annual expenses like clothing and back to school expenses, but how do you budget for something like this?

It’s not only the unknown – nobody knows when school will open – but there has been no time to plan or budget for 2 more weeks or 4 more weeks of children – elementary and secondary school – being out of school.

The first step for all of those eligible - a parent or the primary caregiver of eligible students 12 years old and under attending BC public schools, is to apply for the temporary education support from the government at http://bcparentinfo.ca/parent-support-resources/

The parent may receive $40.00 per eligible student for each day the student is not in school as a result of the labour dispute.

It’s still basically impossible to budget for the additional expenses because no-one knows for how long…and the payment of the temporary education support will not be made until 30 days after the dispute is resolved and public schools reopen. Still, get the application in right away.

Next, I would suggest formulating a 30 day plan for your children. Try to figure out what they could do during this period, perhaps obtaining curriculum information for the grades through libraries, book stores and the school boards.

Consider taking more time off work if you can…..keep the children as active as possible, especially with academic related topics. Consider regular trips to the library.

In the meantime public pressure should be made to both the provincial government and the teacher’s union to get back to school. This should be the number one priority. The dispute does not have to be resolved before going back, but going back should be the first step that could lead to a resolution.

I don’t understand how a Minister of the Crown can possibly say they will not legislate as that is what governments do - they legislate. And they supposedly legislate for the public interest.

As reported by CTV news on Monday, one parent said, ““It isn’t a substitute for education. It seems like a sideshow distraction to try and lessen the blow of screwed up negotiations with the teachers.”

In another report by the Angus Reid polling group it appears that people are cynical about the $40 a day per eligible child. Only 39% of BC residents think the financial support is genuine whereas 61% believe that the government is playing politics.

Most parents and students feel stranded. They have been abandoned by the leaders of both schools and government.

The topic of working and low income families inflames the issue further with financial hardship as so few can afford tutors or extended day camps. In one night they become victims without an affordable alternative to constitutionally guaranteed access for public education. They may be forced to go into debt, visit pawn shops or who knows what else?

So call your elected officials and let them know the hardship that has been created and the need for the schools to be open. Let’s get schools back in our back-to-school family budget plan.

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