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COPE calls for MLA meeting on adult education

The Coalition of Progressive Electors (COPE) wants Vancouver MLAs to sit down with the Vancouver School Board to discuss the necessity of fully funding adult education in the district.

It was revealed last week that the Ministry of Education would halve the amount of courses they fund for education upgrading, including Physics 12, financial law, Chemistry 12 and several other electives.

Some of those courses will be available online for free, but the district will now charge $425 per student for in-class courses not funded by the Ministry. The Ministry told The Vancouver Sun they were cutting funding for the courses because of a high dropout rate for students. The Sun reports completion rates in some courses were as low as 35 per cent.

The Ministry notes these courses are for adults who have already graduated from high school, but need to upgrade for work or further education.

COPE school trustee Allan Wong thinks the Ministry doesn't realize the impact these cuts will have on marginalized adult education students who can't afford $425 per class. He hopes a meeting between Vancouver trustees, adult education students, teachers, administrators, Vancouver MLAs and the Education Minister will help shed light on the issue.

"This is a crisis for our students. They have begun sharing sincere 'impact statements' regarding the unilateral revisions by the province," Wong said in a COPE press release issued yesterday, adding he hopes a meeting can take place before the end of June.

"The Premier claims her government is committed to students and their families, but these changes will make it much harder for the most vulnerable in our community to improve their lives and their families' lives."

Vancouver has 11 MLAs, including Premier Christy Clark and Opposition Leader Adrian Dix.

Wong brought up the idea at a recent school board Committee 5 meeting after district staff presented a report on the projected impact of a loss of district funding.

School Board Chair Patti Bacchus says the proposal was supported by the trustees on the committee, along with a recommendation by Vision Vancouver trustee Mike Lombardi to write to the minister asking him not to cut funding. Both proposals will be presented to the board at next Tuesday's meeting.

"I think we want to do all we can to encourage the government to keep supporting these programs, because they're life transforming for people and not having access to some of those will really be a barrier to people to getting on with their post-secondary education," says Bacchus, who is also a member of the Vision Vancouver party.

*Non-Partisan Association trustees Ken Denike and Sophia Woo also indicated their support for the meeting in separate emails to The Tyee.

"There will be additional costs to districts due to changes in covering completions and if classes underbooked there will be an inevitable spiral down in course offerings. With fees and reduced revenue due to completion rates many of the courses will not be given and everybody trying to get ahead suffers. This will impact all," wrote Denike.

The Tyee contacted the Ministry of Education who said they were unsure if they had received an official invitation from Wong to speak, but that without an official invitation would not comment.

*Updated at 1:27 p.m.

Katie Hyslop reports on education and youth issues for The Tyee Solutions Society.

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